Chapter 7 is a federal bankruptcy law enacted by Congress to give individuals, married couples or businesses in financial difficulty a fresh start. Chapter 7 is a straight liquidation bankruptcy that allows individual debtors to discharge (and not pay) unsecured debts. Unsecured debts include many but not all purchases made on credit cards. Filing under Chapter 7 allows you to keep many assets and then start over. In exchange, the debtor surrenders the remainder or non-exempt assets, if any, to be liquidated for the benefit creditors. Chapter 7 does not discharge student loans, certain IRS debts, family obligations, or criminal obligations.
If you decide to file Chapter 7, you will need to work with your attorney to create schedules showing your creditors, assets, income and expenses. These schedules are signed by you and filed with the Court along with a voluntary petition for bankruptcy. Once these documents are filed the automatic stay of the Federal Bankruptcy Code immediately goes into effect. The bankruptcy clerk's office will notify your creditors of your filing and the harassment will immediately stop.
It generally takes 3-4 months before the Bankruptcy Judge signs the discharge order and you are relieved of all dischargeable debt. Debts which may not be discharged by the court include: large purchases such as appliances; jewelry; furniture; cash advances made within 60 days of the filing for bankruptcy; student loans; some types of tax debts; family obligations; child support; and debts due to fraudulent acts and/or intentional torts or wrongs. Chapter 7 will usually allow you to keep your house and vehicles provided you keep making your normal monthly payments to the mortgage or finance company.
Chapter 13 is a wage earner repayment plan. It is a federal law designed to help individuals, married people and single-owner businesses repay a portion of their debts with dignity and peace of mind. A plan for the repayment of debts is created by you and your lawyer and, with the approval of your creditors, confirmed by the Court. The process of creating the plan and getting it approved by creditors and confirmed by the Court takes about 9 months. Upon successful completion of the plan, the bankruptcy is discharged. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing may:
- Allow you to stop the foreclosure on your home
- Give you up to 5 years to catch up on your house payments
- Stop the repossession of your vehicle
- Stop the IRS from garnishing your wages
Change in the New Bankruptcy Laws
The new bankruptcy laws change the requirements for filing bankruptcy. These changes impose additional requirements on debtors when filing for bankruptcy. The new bankruptcy law changes also affected a debtor’s ability to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, these changes to the bankruptcy laws are not as ominous as the media has led the public to believe. While there are added requirements, a skilled bankruptcy law attorney can easily lead you through the change in process.
For assistance in determining if you qualify for bankruptcy, or for questions regarding the new bankruptcy laws, please contact one of our experienced Dallas-Fort Worth bankruptcy law attorneys and schedule a confidential consultation.