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Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Rules FAQ

How do I file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

According to Chapter 13 bankruptcy rules, it is necessary for a debtor to attend credit counseling prior to filing for bankruptcy. After the completion of counseling, the debtor must pay $274 and provide the bankruptcy court with information about income, debt, expenses, and creditor holdings of secured and unsecured debt. Once the court receives the appropriate paperwork, a trustee will review the case. The trustee will request information from the debtor, communicate with creditors, and hold a creditors meeting. The debtor is also responsible for filing a repayment plan with the court. Once the bankruptcy court approves the repayment plan, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is complete.

Does filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy stop creditors from collecting a debt?

Chapter 13 bankruptcy rules state that a creditor may no longer pursue collection activities when a debtor files for bankruptcy. As soon as debtor files the appropriate paperwork and pays the filing fee, an automatic stay takes effect. An automatic stay prohibits creditors from further attempts to collect a debt. This means that any lawsuit proceedings must cease, a creditor may not report the debt to credit reporting agencies, and the debtor's property and income are safe from seizure. Collection activities may continue for spousal and child support, tax debt, and pension loans, however.

Is credit card debt included in a Chapter 13 repayment plan?

To qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a debtor must repay all secured creditors and priority debts in full and must repay a portion of the amount owed to unsecured creditors. "Secured debt" is a debt obligation backed by collateral such as a car or real property; "priority debt" includes child support payments and back taxes; and "unsecured debt" are those obligations that are not backed by collateral. Unsecured debt includes money owed on a credit card.

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy places a filer's debt into a repayment plan. A bankruptcy court will not approve a plan unless the arrangement requires that the debtor repay all priority and secured debt in full. The repayment plan must also require the debtor to repay unsecured creditors in an amount equal in value to the filer's nonexempt property. Nonexempt property includes any interest held in real property, business assets, and artwork. Once a Chapter 13 repayment plan begins, a trustee will disburse the monthly payment made by the debtor to the creditors each month.

Will a Chapter 13 bankruptcy discharge my student loan debt?

In most circumstances, a bankruptcy court will require repayment of student loan debt. Chapter 13 bankruptcy rules treat student loan debt similar to priority debt--it is payable in full like back taxes and child support payments. Prior to 2005, student loan debt was only dischargeable when funded by a private lender. With the passage of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, however, privately funded student loans are now treated the same as student loans guaranteed or issued by the federal government. This means that all student loan debt is only dischargeable upon a showing of undue hardship.

Typically, it is difficult to convince a bankruptcy court to discharge student loan debt. A bankruptcy court will consider such factors as poverty, the inability to pay the loan due to a permanent disability, and a debtor's good-faith effort to repay the loan for a long period. To have a student loan debt dismissed, a debtor must file a separate action in bankruptcy court called a Complaint to Determine Dischargeability of a Debt.

If I miss a scheduled payment under my Chapter 13 repayment plan, can a creditor begin collection activities?

If a debtor misses a scheduled payment, Chapter 13 bankruptcy rules allow the trustee to institute an action for dismissal with the bankruptcy court. Because the debtor agreed to repay creditors according to a court-approved Chapter 13 repayment plan, a trustee may request the dismissal of the case once those creditors are no longer receiving payments. A debtor may be able to prevent the dismissal of a case by establishing their ability to repay the debt under the current plan or by requesting that the court approve a new plan.

If the bankruptcy court dismisses the case, a creditor may reinstitute collection activities against the debtor. Bankruptcy laws that prohibit collection attempts no longer protect the debtor at this point. Consequently, creditors may collect the current amount owed on the debt and any interest on the debt that accrued while the debtor was in bankruptcy.

Next Steps
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