How long does filing for bankruptcy take?

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Filing for bankruptcy is a legal process that individuals or businesses may undertake when they are unable to repay their debts. It offers a fresh start by eliminating or restructuring debts. One common question that arises when considering bankruptcy is: how long does the process take? In this article, we will explore the various factors that can influence the duration of a bankruptcy case.

Types of Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also known as liquidation bankruptcy, is the most common type for individuals. It involves the sale of non-exempt assets to repay creditors. The entire process typically takes around three to six months, depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s caseload.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Chapter 13 bankruptcy, also known as reorganization bankruptcy, allows individuals with a regular income to develop a repayment plan to pay off their debts over a period of three to five years. The duration of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case is longer due to the repayment plan. It can take anywhere from three to five years to complete, depending on the agreed-upon terms and the debtor’s ability to make payments.

Pre-Filing Requirements

Before filing for bankruptcy, certain requirements must be met. These requirements can impact the overall timeline of the bankruptcy process. Some common pre-filing requirements include:

Credit Counseling: Individuals must complete a credit counseling course from an approved agency within 180 days before filing for bankruptcy. This course helps debtors explore alternatives to bankruptcy and understand the implications of filing.

Means Test: The means test determines whether an individual qualifies for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or if they should file under Chapter 13. It evaluates the debtor’s income and expenses to determine their ability to repay their debts. Completing the means test can take several weeks, depending on the complexity of the debtor’s financial situation.

Filing and Automatic Stay

Once all pre-filing requirements are met, the debtor can proceed with filing the bankruptcy petition. This involves submitting the necessary forms and documentation to the bankruptcy court. Upon filing, an automatic stay goes into effect, which halts all collection actions by creditors. The automatic stay provides immediate relief to the debtor and allows them to focus on the bankruptcy process.

Creditors’ Meeting and Plan Confirmation

After filing, a creditors’ meeting, also known as a 341 meeting, is scheduled. This meeting allows creditors to ask questions and gather information about the debtor’s financial situation. The debtor must attend this meeting, which typically occurs within 20 to 40 days after filing. The meeting itself is relatively short, usually lasting around 5 to 10 minutes.

For Chapter 13 cases, the debtor’s repayment plan must be submitted within 14 days after the creditors’ meeting. The plan outlines how the debtor intends to repay their debts. The court then reviews and confirms the plan, which can take a few weeks to several months, depending on the court’s caseload.

Discharge and Case Closure

The final stage of a bankruptcy case is the discharge. In Chapter 7 cases, the discharge typically occurs around three to four months after the creditors’ meeting. The discharge releases the debtor from personal liability for most debts included in the bankruptcy.

In Chapter 13 cases, the discharge occurs after the debtor completes all the payments outlined in their repayment plan. This can take several years, depending on the agreed-upon duration of the plan.

Once the discharge is granted, the bankruptcy case is closed, and the debtor can move forward with their fresh start.


The duration of a bankruptcy case depends on various factors, including the type of bankruptcy, pre-filing requirements, court caseload, and the complexity of the debtor’s financial situation. Chapter 7 cases generally conclude within a few months, while Chapter 13 cases can take several years. It is crucial for individuals considering bankruptcy to consult with a qualified bankruptcy attorney to understand the specific timeline for their situation.


– United States Courts:
– Internal Revenue Service:
– American Bankruptcy Institute: