The length of time until the next step after filing bankruptcy depends on your definition of what the next step is. Bankruptcy itself consists of a series of steps that you as a debtor must follow if you want to receive your bankruptcy discharge. For many debtors, the next step begins after the conclusion of a case -- the point at which you must take proactive steps to restore order in your financial life.
The immediate next step after filing bankruptcy is the enactment of the automatic stay. One of the principal protections of bankruptcy, the automatic stay will force your creditors to stop calling and writing you about your debt, under penalty of law. Although the court will notify all of the creditors you listed in your bankruptcy petition to stop contacting you, you can be proactive and send them a copy of your notice of filing yourself. If any creditors call you before they receive the notice, you can tell them you filed for bankruptcy and provide them with your case number.
Meeting of Creditors
For many debtors, the next step after filing for bankruptcy is the meeting of creditors. When you file bankruptcy, both you and the courts must follow the procedures of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Under Section 341 of the code, the U.S. trustee must hold a meeting of creditors within a "reasonable time" after the filing of a bankruptcy petition. Typically, the court will schedule your meeting between 20 and 40 days after you file. While the meeting is usually uneventful, with the trustee verifying your identity and the information in your petition, failure to appear will end your case. The court will typically dismiss your case if you miss your 341 meeting.
The bankruptcy discharge is the next step that many debtors look for when they file a bankruptcy case. After you attend your meeting of creditors, you can expect to get a Chapter 7 discharge in about 60 days, barring any objections or other problems with your case. In all, your Chapter 7 bankruptcy could be over in as few as three months, though the typical range is three to six months. Chapter 13 cases take longer, usually three to five years.
After Bankruptcy Discharge
Life after bankruptcy is the true next step for most debtors. Once you have filed bankruptcy, you cannot file again for a number of years, up to eight years in the case of Chapter 7 bankruptcies, so you no longer have the safety net of the courts. Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for years after you file, up to 10 years in Chapter 7 cases. If you ever want to buy a home, or a car, or otherwise use credit, you will have to begin showing signs of financial responsibility so lenders will feel more comfortable offering you credit.