The date you file your bankruptcy petition is an important date for your entire bankruptcy case, because it sets several deadlines in Chapter 7 cases and Chapter 13 cases. These deadlines affect your discharge date; in a Chapter 7 case, the court could enter your discharge as early as 90 days after the petition date, and in a Chapter 13 case, the court will enter your discharge after you complete your Chapter 13 plan.
Chapter 7 Discharge
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most absolute form of debt relief the Bankruptcy Code has to offer. Your Chapter 7 discharge eliminates your obligation to repay certain debts, including credit card debt, personal loans, medical bills and utilities. The discharge does not get rid of the debt; rather, it gets rid of your contractual liability on the debts.
Chapter 13 Discharge
A Chapter 13 case is a repayment arrangement. You will receive a discharge at the end of your case if you complete all your case requirements, but you will repay some or all of the debt during a three- to- five-year period. The court will enter the discharge at the end of that time frame if you make all your plan payments and pay everything you promised to pay.
Objections to Discharge
Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code allows your creditors to object to your discharging their particular debts if you have committed fraud or have otherwise abused the bankruptcy system. Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are subject to this provision. Your creditors have 60 days from the date of your meeting of creditors, which is typically 30 days after your petition date.
In a Chapter 7 case, this means that you will not receive your discharge for at least 90 days after you file your petition, because your meeting of creditors must first occur, and then your creditors are allowed the 60-day period.
In a Chapter 13 case, the 60-day period for creditors to object to discharge does not directly affect your discharge date, because the discharge date depends upon when you complete your Chapter 13 plan. Your Chapter 13 plan period begins to run on the date the court confirms your plan and ends when the time period set forth in your plan expires, anywhere from three years to five years. However, if a creditor does object to your discharging its debt, the court may hold off on confirming your plan until you resolve the matter, which could delay your discharge.
To obtain a bankruptcy discharge in any consumer case, you must attend and complete your meeting of creditors and complete your credit counseling requirements. Before you file your case, you must take a counseling course; before you can obtain your discharge, you must take the second part of the course. In a Chapter 7 case, you must take the course within 45 days after your meeting of creditors; in a Chapter 13 case, you must take the course before your plan expires. If you do not complete this second course, the court will close your case without a discharge.
This article is for informational purposes only and you should not consider it legal advice. Your bankruptcy attorney will advise you of when you can expect your discharge; your case may have special circumstances that will shorten or lengthen the time period.