How long does a bankruptcy take?

“How long does a bankruptcy take?”

This seemingly innocuous question is asked of me several times a day, it seems. Although my clients may not realize it, it is actually several questions rolled in to one.

The first is “how long will it be until I can get my bankruptcy case filed with the court?” In an emergency situation (like a foreclosure scheduled for right now) a basic filing can be accomplished in a day or two, with the client obligated to cough up complete information on his debts and assets within the next two weeks.

For a non-emergency situation, how long filing takes depends on how good of a record keeper you are. If your records are in order, and you have paid your attorney, I can usually file in 2-3 days (some time is necessary for you to review the filing yourself). If you hire an attorney, pay him, and the documents are not filed quickly, consider changing attorneys unless you can get a good explanation of what the hold-up is!

The next part to the question is “how long until my creditors stop hounding me?” This has a simple answer: harassment should stop upon filing. Much of it will stop as soon as you file, with many creditors receiving e-mail notice of your case form the court instantly. For those creditors who still depend on mail notifications, calls from them should drop off in a week or two as the case notices get sent out. If you are still being bugged more than two weeks after filing, talk to your lawyer, he can probably put a stop to it.

Still another part of the question is “how long until I get my discharge?” This depends on the type of case. An average Chapter 7 client usually gets her discharge in four months or less.

Chapter 13 clients, however, propose plans to pay off certain creditors over a period of time, usually three to five years. So their cases are a little different, and it may literally take five years before this type of bankruptcy case is closed.


By Doug Beaton

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