Steps in a Typical Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case

Here is how a typical Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeds – from filing the petition to receiving the discharge.

By , Attorney · University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

Below is a Chapter 13 timeline outlining the steps in Chapter 13 you can expect to encounter after filing. If you want to know how long it takes to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy, complete the steps outlined below, and receive a Chapter 13 discharge, the answer is most filers complete the process in 60 months—possibly less if your income is low enough or you're paying 100% of your debts.

Because some dates overlap, you'll want to consult with your attorney for specifics or read more about how to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

1. Prepare for Chapter 13 bankruptcy—before filing.

You'll want to find your financial documents, determine whether you're eligible for Chapter 13, and complete your official bankruptcy paperwork. You'll also take a pre-filing credit counseling course during the 180 days before filing your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.

Find out how to get the bankruptcy petition and other official forms.

2. File your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.

Your case will begin when you submit your completed paperwork and filing fee to your local bankruptcy court. If you have counsel, your lawyer will file your case online.

Learn how to benefit from an emergency bankruptcy filing when you don't have time to complete the entire bankruptcy petition.

3. Bankruptcy stay stops creditors—immediately upon filing.

The automatic stay takes effect when you file your bankruptcy case. It bars most creditors from taking any actions to collect what you owe, including stopping lenders from foreclosing on your home.

4. Chapter 13 trustee appointed—within a few days of filing.

The Chapter 13 trustee is responsible for administering your case. You will receive a Notice of Appointment of Trustee from the court in the mail.

5. Receive dates and deadlines—within a few days of filing.

The bankruptcy court will send you and your creditors important information in a Notice of Chapter 13 Case, including the meeting of creditors date, the creditors' claim deadline, and the confirmation hearing date (we explain more about these dates below).

6. Start paying monthly Chapter 13 payments—within 30 days of filing.

You'll begin paying the amount proposed in your Chapter 13 plan about 30 days after filing. The court won't have approved your plan yet, but making your monthly payment before the confirmation hearing allows you to complete the case within the 36- or 60-month requirement. Find out more about how long your Chapter 13 plan will last.

If the bankruptcy court doesn't approve or "confirm" your plan, the trustee will return your money, minus administrative costs and certain interest-incurring secured payments like car payments. It's important to pay these debts on time to prevent a buildup of unpaid fees and interest that could undermine plan completion.

7. Provide documentation to the Chapter 13 trustee—at least seven days before the 341 meeting.

You'll provide the trustee with bank statements, paycheck stubs, four years of tax returns, and other documents. Other financial information a trustee might require include proof of insurance; mortgage and car loan balances; retirement, stock, and investment statements; and income and expense statements if you own a business. Learn about 521 bankruptcy documents.

8. Attend the 341 meeting of creditors—within 40 days after filing the bankruptcy petition.

You attend the Chapter 13 meeting of creditors, where the trustee and any creditors who show up can ask you about your financial affairs. You must bring any documents the trustee requests and proof that you‘ve filed tax returns for the last four years.

9. Respond to objections and modify the planbefore the confirmation hearing.

The trustee or a creditor could object to your plan at or after the 341 meeting. In many cases, problems are resolved informally. Otherwise, a modification requires a written objection requesting a court ruling.

10. Creditors submit claims for paymentwithin 70 days of filing (180 days for government creditors).

Creditors file proof of claim forms stating the amount owed and the debt type, along with a contract or other supporting documents. If a creditor doesn't file a proof of claim by the deadline, you'll have 30 days to file it for the creditor.

11. Object to a creditor's proof of claim—as soon as possible.

You or the trustee will file a written objection to a creditor's claim if you have a reason to object. You'll want to file it as soon as possible to give the creditor the proper notice.

12. Attend the Chapter 13 confirmation hearing—within 40 days after the 341 hearing.

You or your attorney attend the confirmation hearing. The court reviews your proposed plan and objections raised by creditors or the trustee before deciding whether to "confirm" or approve your repayment plan.

13. Finalize the Chapter 13 planafter the confirmation hearing.

If the court approves your plan, you'll continue making your proposed payment. However, suppose the trustee or creditor raises a valid objection. In that case, the court might give you time to modify your plan and continue the Chapter 13 confirmation hearing. It's common to "amend" or change a Chapter 13 plan in response to an objection by the trustee or a creditor.

14. Monitor creditor paymentsthroughout the case.

Depending on your jurisdiction, the trustee will send you periodic statements showing creditor payments. You might be able to access the information on the trustee's website. Contact the trustee for instructions.

It's important to keep track of the payments and pay any late fees assessed for a delinquent mortgage or car payment. This situation can occur when you fall behind on a plan payment, preventing the trustee from sending the funds on time. If you don't pay the fees separately, the outstanding balance will continue to grow, and you'll owe a significant amount at the end of your case.

15. Provide yearly tax returns and other documentsusually yearly.

The court, trustee, U.S. Trustee, or creditor could request annual tax returns while your Chapter 13 plan is in effect.

16. File the final paperwork—before completing the plan.

You will file a certificate showing you completed a debtor education course before making your last plan payment. Also, you'll likely verify that you're current on support payments and provide other information.

17. Receive bankruptcy discharge—after completing all requirements.

The court grants your bankruptcy discharge erasing the remaining balances of qualifying debts after you complete your plan and fulfill other requirements. The court might schedule a brief final court appearance called a "discharge hearing." Otherwise, you'll receive a discharge notice by mail about a month after completing your plan payments or receiving a hardship discharge.

Need More Bankruptcy Help?

Did you know Nolo has made the law easy for over fifty years? It's true—and we want to ensure you find what you need. Below you'll find more articles explaining how bankruptcy works. And don't forget that our bankruptcy homepage is the best place to start if you have other questions!

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Helpful Bankruptcy Sites

Department of Justice U.S. Trustee Program

United States Courts Bankruptcy Forms

We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets in bankruptcy is by hiring a local bankruptcy lawyer.

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