The Top 5 Questions You Should Be Asking About Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

If you are so deeply in debt that you feel you have no hope of paying off your creditors, then filing for bankruptcy may actually be the best long-term decision, no matter how scary it sounds. Here are the five top questions people ask about Chapter 13 bankruptcy:

  1. What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy? 
    By filing a petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are asking to get a certain amount of debt forgiven by agreeing to a payment plan. Essentially, this type of bankruptcy involves reorganizing your debt, and you’ll pay somewhere between 10 and 100% of what you owe (but over a longer timeframe). Student loans, spousal and child support and criminal fines will not be forgiven, and certain kinds of debts are considered “priority debts.” These must be paid in full no matter your income level.
  2. What Are the Alternatives to Chapter 13 Bankruptcy? 
    The other main type of consumer bankruptcy is Chapter 7, also called straight bankruptcy. In this case, some of your assets (those determined to be “non-exempt”) are put in the care of a trustee who liquidates them and uses them to pay off your creditors. No creditors are allowed to directly collect debts from you during this time, and after your assets have been depleted, the rest of your debts are canceled. There are a few kinds of debt that aren’t dissolved by Chapter 7 bankruptcy, including major recent purchases, debts incurred through fraud and land and car contracts (as well as student loans, criminal fines and child support, just as in Chapter 13 bankruptcy). Chapter 13 bankruptcy, however, may allow you to salvage some of your most valuable assets, such as your home and car, which is why it’s often a better choice.
  3. How Long Does Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Last? 
    There are two questions you may potentially be asking here. First, you may be wondering how long does Chapter 13 bankruptcy last in terms of its repayment; most repayment plans last between three and five years, though the term will vary based on your monthly income and how much you need to repay. Second, you might be asking about the lasting effects of the bankruptcy. For that answer, read on to the next question.
  4. How Long Does It Take Your Credit to Recover After Bankruptcy? 
    How long does Chapter 13 bankruptcy last in terms of its effect on your financial life and health? Bankruptcy, for obvious reasons, can lead to a severe drop in your credit score. This will stay on your file for seven years, and may negatively impact your credit score for that long. However, making strong financial choices after bankruptcy can allow a moderate amount of recovery in just a couple years.
  5. Can Debtors Handle Their Own Bankruptcies?
    It’s highly recommended that you find a local bankruptcy attorney and get some help in filing. Hiring an attorney can save both money and time when it comes to navigating the legal requirements of bankruptcy court. Bankruptcy is a highly technical legal process, and even a small error can get a petition thrown out, leaving you on the hook for thousands of dollars you don’t have.

What other questions do you have about bankruptcy? Ask or share your knowledge in the comments.