How to File for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

What it takes to successfully complete a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

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1. Make sure Chapter 13 is the right choice.
Learn about your other options, including Chapter 7 bankruptcy, to determine whether or not Chapter 13 bankruptcy is right for you. (To learn more, see Bankruptcy: Should I File?)

2. Analyze your debt.
If your debts are too high, you may not eligible or you may not be able to propose a feasible plan. See Are You Eligible for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

3. Gauge your income.
You must have sufficient income to make payments under a Chapter 13 plan. If you don't, the court will not let you proceed. See Your Obligations Under a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan.

4. Value your property.
Before you file, you'll need to know how much property you own and how much of it is exempt. This will factor into the amount you'll have to pay under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan.

5. Fill out the bankruptcy forms.
Once you've determined that you qualify, you must enter all of your financial data on official bankruptcy forms and draft your repayment plan. (To learn more, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.)

6. File your forms.
When everything is checked and ready, file your forms and plan with the bankruptcy court to get the process under way.

7. Attend two hearings.
Within a few weeks after you file, you'll meet with the trustee at the courthouse to review your forms and your plan. Creditors may also attend this meeting, and may ask you questions or perhaps negotiate the terms of your plan. Shortly after this meeting (perhaps even the same day) you will attend a confirmation hearing at which the bankruptcy judge will decide whether to confirm your plan. Creditors can raise objections to your plan at this hearing, and the judge will rule on them. (To learn more about the hearings, see The Bankruptcy Case: Process & Procedures.)

8. Make payments.
You must start to make payments according to your repayment plan within 30 days. You may have to go back to court if any problems arise during your case. If you miss payments, your case will be dismissed.

9. Get your bankruptcy discharge.
If you complete your plan, making all the payments until the plan is finished, you will get your bankruptcy discharge. The discharge relieves you of any legal obligation for any unpaid balance on the unsecured debts listed in the plan. As long as you've paid the amount you promised in the plan, you're done. Congratulations! This is what it's all about.

Updated by: , J.D.

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