How Long Does Bankruptcy Take?

Whether you're looking forward to debt relief or can't wait to be free from a previous filing, one of the biggest questions involving bankruptcy is: How long is this going to take?

Unfortunately, there's no definitive answer. How long your bankruptcy case will take, from filing to debt relief and beyond, can depend on a variety of factors, including the type of bankruptcy filing and your specific kind and amount of debt. Here's a look at those factors, as well as a general bankruptcy timeline.

Date of Discharge

The time it takes from filing bankruptcy to your debt being discharged will depend first on the chapter under which your case is being filed. According to federal bankruptcy courts, the timing generally breaks down like this:

  • Chapter 7 (Liquidation): Normally about four months after the date you file the petition with the clerk of the bankruptcy court. The court waits to grant the discharge until after the time fixed for filing a complaint objecting to discharge and the time fixed for filing a motion to dismiss the case for substantial abuse has expired, normally 60 days following the first date set for the 341 meeting.
  • Individual Chapter 11, Chapter 12, and Chapter 13: Normally about four years after the date of filing. Since these include repayment plans that may provide for payments to be made over three to five years, discharge is not official until after you complete all payments under the plan.

After the Discharge

There are some dates to keep in mind after your debt has been discharged. For example, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years. You may also be barred from filing for bankruptcy again for another 6 years after filing, and you can't file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy if a previous Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case was dismissed within the previous 180 days because you violated a court order or requested the dismissal after a creditor asked for relief from the automatic stay.

So while debt relief may come within a few months of your bankruptcy filing, a bankruptcy case can linger for years afterward.

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