Understanding the Different Bankruptcy Filings

Whether you face personal financial challenges or your business has fallen upon difficult times, there are options available to you under the federal bankruptcy laws. This blog post provides an overview of the most common types of bankruptcy filings.

Chapter 7 Liquidation Proceedings

The protections afforded by Chapter 7 are available to individuals or businesses. In a Chapter 7 petition, you are allowed to permanently discharge most types of debts. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy you are allowed to “exempt”, or protect your assets up to a certain dollar amount. In more than 95% of all bankruptcy cases, the person who files for bankruptcy keeps everything they own. In a Chapter 7 certain debts, such as child support arrearages, student loans (except under very limited circumstances) and some tax obligations cannot be wiped out. Each state has its own state based exemptions, and some states allow their residents to use the federal property exemptions. You may choose the state or the federal exemption, but not both. Once your Chapter 7 bankruptcy if finalized, you are permanently freed from any obligation to repay any debts discharged.

In 2005 Congress added a “means test” to the bankruptcy code. The means test determines if an individual or couple makes “too much money” to file a Chapter 7 and instead must file a Chapter 13 to repay their creditors a portion of what is owed. For the vast majority of people looking to file bankruptcy, the means test has no impact on their ability to file Chapter 7. It is simply false to say that you “can’t file a Chapter 7” or that is it “much harder to file a Chapter 7”.

Chapter 13 Reorganization

In a Chapter 13 filing, you pay what you can afford to pay on a monthly basis. Your creditors will receive a percentage of what they are owed, and at the end of your three to five year plan, the balance of what is owed is wiped out.. As with a Chapter 7 petition, you are immediately protected by the automatic stay, which prohibits your creditors from calling, writing or taking legal action against you to recover a debt.. As long as you honor the terms of the reorganization plan, your creditors may not make any other attempts to collect any debts you owe.

Chapter 11 Business Reorganization

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing allows a business to obtain the protection of the automatic stay, and to negotiate new payment arrangements with creditors, in a fashion similar to the Chapter 13 petition for individuals. Chapter 13 has debt limits and if an individual owes more money than what is allowed, they will be required to file a Chapter 11 case in order to reorganize.

Contact John Hargrave and Associates

We have provided comprehensive counsel to individuals in and around Barrington, New Jersey, since 1977. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 856-547-6500.