While bankruptcy is a legitimate route to get out of debt, it can negatively affect your credit for as long as 10 years and can be a very unpleasant experience emotionally.
You shouldn’t consider bankruptcy as a simple “quick fix” to all of your financial problems, but rather as one of the many available solutions you may have given your individual situation.
Remember, bankruptcy is a last-ditch solution, and it's not a do-it-yourself proposition; you'll want to hire an attorney with expertise in bankruptcy to help you make important decisions that will affect the outcome.
The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 makes declaring bankruptcy more difficult and requires increased paperwork, more stringent limitations, and financial counseling from an approved nonprofit credit counseling service.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy you can wipe out common, unsecured debt if you meet the standards established in 2005 and commonly referred to as a "Means Test". A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is commonly referred to as a "Straight Bankruptcy". A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will eliminate unsecured debts including credit cards, personal loans, medical bills and dental bills. Early in the filing process you will be asked to provide a list of all creditors, account balances and related information. When you file bankruptcy you will automatically be protected against collections efforts and lawsuits. At this point you should stop making any payments on our debts.
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will not eliminate secured debts including car loans and mortgages. If you want to keep your this property you must continue to make those payments. You may be asked to sign a "reaffirmation of debt" which is a promise to pay however this is completely optional. A Chapter 7 will also not eliminate debts such as student loans, past due taxes, child support or alimony.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a consumer bankruptcy option that essentially consolidates all of your debts into one large debt, and allows you to make a single monthly payment to retire the debt. This type of bankruptcy is commonly referred to as a "Court Ordered Debt Consolidation." A Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing will making it easier to manage your debt situation by developing a repayment plan that is determined based on your income, debt amount and living expenses.
As with some other forms of bankruptcy, Chapter 13 will halt foreclosure, vehicle repossessions, collections efforts and wage garnishment. Chapter 13, unlike Chapter 7 bankruptcy, can help you to address student loans, tax debts and similar debts. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a relatively simple process which can give you immediate protection from creditors and provide a manageable situation to get you back onto a stable financial situation.
The bankruptcy process involves several steps which will include at least one in-person appearance in Federal bankruptcy court. This appearance is not in a traditional courtroom setting and is more of a formal meeting than a courtroom situation. The Court will appoint a Trustee , who is an attorney, to handle your case. In this meeting your Trustee will review the facts of your case and confirm that the submitted repayment plan is workable. From there your case will move forward (on a different day) for confirmation by a bankruptcy judge. Upon confirmation of your repayment plan you will begin making payments to the Trustee or possibly have the payment automatically deducted from your paycheck
A Chapter 13 repayment plan will typically last between three and five years. You always have the option, without penalty, to accelerate payments and retire your debts sooner than defined in the Plan.
Cost: Expect to pay between $1,700 and $3,100 for bankruptcy. The cost will depend on the type of bankruptcy you file and what part of the country you live in.
While it may provide financial relief, you should consider other alternatives to filing bankruptcy before making this tough decision.
If you have questions about bankruptcy or are considering it as an option, we advise you to speak directly to an experienced bankruptcy attorney licensed in your state.