A Step-by-Step Guide on How Long It Takes to File Bankruptcy

Written By Marie Abendroth
Last updated April 1, 2021

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Personal Finance
April 1, 2021

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Bankruptcy can take anywhere from 90 days to a year from your initial consultation with an attorney to the discharge of your debts. Most cases are completed in four to six months from the filing date.

The total time it takes depends on the type of bankruptcy you’re filing, the local court’s total caseload, and the specifics of your situation. If you work with an experienced bankruptcy attorney, they will help each step move along as quickly as possible.

Wondering how long each step will take and what to expect along the way? Simply use this guide to learn just how long does it take to file bankruptcy.

No matter which type you choose, filing bankruptcy starts with the paperwork, which can take anywhere from a couple of days to over a week to complete. The paperwork lets the court know that you want to discharge your debts and gives them a clear overview of your financial situation.

To fill it out, you will need:

· Proof of income, such as tax returns and paystubs

· List of all your eligible debts

· Current bank statements

· A detailed list of all assets, including exempt property

By having all your documents in hand, your lawyer can help you quickly fill out each section and ready the paperwork for the courts. If you’re in a hurry, you can complete an emergency filing and then finish the rest of the paperwork within 14 days.

You have to take two credit counseling courses during the bankruptcy process. Although they will cover different topics, you can expect each one to take up to two hours.

Plan to complete the first one before filing your documents, so you can include the certificate with your paperwork. Then, do the second one after the creditor’s hearing. The court will only move forward with the discharge once they get the certificate for that course.

Once you have your paperwork filled out and have attached the credit counseling certificate, you can file the documents with the court. If you’re working with an attorney, they will likely submit them through the electronic filing system, getting it done in minutes.

Otherwise, you will need to file the paperwork directly with the bankruptcy court in your area. This can take up to an hour to complete, depending on how many people are in line.

To keep it from taking longer, follow all directions regarding the organization and presentation of the forms. Bring at least the original and two other copies in case you need to make changes on the fly.

About a month after you file your bankruptcy paperwork, the court will give you a date for the creditor’s hearing. Set aside at least three hours for this hearing in case the court is busy. In most cases, it only takes about an hour.

During that time, you’ll stand before the court to answer the trustee’s questions. Your creditors have the right to ask questions about your debts and overall financial standing. Most decline the opportunity, however. The questioning process only takes around 10 minutes for most people.

Length of Case

The case will sit in a holding pattern for 30 days after this hearing. This gives the creditors time to object to the discharge of your debt owed to them. They can also object to the entirety of the case. If their court approves their objections, you may need to pursue other ways to settle the debts.

While you wait, this is a great time to do your second credit counseling course. Most courts require that you complete that session within 60 days of your creditor hearing.

If the creditors do not succeed with their objections, the court will work on discharging your eligible debts. In most courts, this process takes about 60 days in total, starting from the creditor’s hearing date.

You can expect to hear from your attorney and receive an official letter once the debts are officially discharged. You should file the letter in a safe place, so you can use it to dispute any items that do not get removed from your credit report in the coming months.

Your case will likely remain open for several months after that, however, to allow creditors to work through any matters that come up. After that process, the court will issue their final decree to make the bankruptcy official. After that, they will dismiss the case.

The timeline above only applies if all goes smoothly during the bankruptcy process. Unfortunately, it’s pretty common to have at least one delay that pushes the discharge date back a bit.

Missing Info

The most common cause of short delays is the absence of key information in your paperwork. When that happens, the court will submit a request for more info, potentially pushing your case out a month or more.

Plan to track down that info and submit it as soon as you receive that request to minimize the length of the delay. Better yet, work closely with your attorney to fill out and triple-check the paperwork before submitting it to make sure the court has what they need the first time around.

Sale of Property

Longer delays often arise due to issues with the sale of real estate or other property needed to satisfy your debts. The trustee will work hard to resolve those issues, but it could take months to work through the problems.

Creditor Objections

The longest delays result from creditors objecting to your right to discharge the debts or file your bankruptcy case. They may even file a lawsuit against you, which has to be resolved before moving on with your original proceedings. If that happens, expect the delay to last up to a year, if not longer.

You can help your case go smoothly by understanding what to expect and paying close attention to the do’s and don’ts of filing bankruptcy. If you’d rather avoid the whole process, you can try to settle your debts and create a payment plan with help from a debt consolidation company.

Either way, temper your expectations and try to relax. Resolving your debt is never a quick process. All you can do is work through each step and keep moving forward to achieving your financial goals.

About the Author

Marie Abendroth

Marie is a skilled content strategist and copywriter with a focus on helping people improve their personal finances and overcome their barriers to success. In her articles, she aims to provide up-to-date info that can help everyone better understand how to invest in a better future.  

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