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How Long Does the Bankruptcy Process Take?

Vivona Pandurangi , PLC May 30, 2024

Frustrated businessman due to loss in businessBankruptcy is a legal process designed to help individuals and businesses facing insurmountable debt. As bankruptcy attorneys at Vivona Pandurangi, PLC, we understand that those considering declaring bankruptcy often have many questions, one of the most pressing being: "How long does the bankruptcy process take?"  

As your bankruptcy attorneys, we will walk you through the timeline of the bankruptcy process, explore the factors that influence its duration, and give you a practical understanding of what to expect. Whether you're in Falls Church, Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Manassas, Prince William County, or Loudon County, our team is here to help you every step of the way. 

Understanding Bankruptcy Types

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, known as "liquidation bankruptcy," involves the sale of a debtor's non-exempt assets to pay off creditors. This type of bankruptcy is typically completed faster than other types, often within four to six months from the filing date. 

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy 

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is primarily for businesses but can also apply to individuals with substantial debts exceeding the limits of Chapter 13. It involves reorganizing the debtor's obligations to allow continued operation while paying off creditors over time. Due to its complexity, Chapter 11 can take anywhere from several months to several years to complete. 

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy 

Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or the "wage earner's plan," allows individuals to keep their property and pay off debts over three to five years through a court-approved repayment plan. The length of the plan depends on the debtor's income and the amount of debt. 

Factors Influencing the Duration of the Bankruptcy Process

The time it takes to complete the bankruptcy process can vary based on several factors: 

  1. Type of bankruptcy: As explained above, Chapter 7 generally takes less time than Chapter 11 or Chapter 13. 

  1. Case complexity: Cases with extensive assets, numerous creditors, or ongoing litigation can extend the bankruptcy process. 

  1. Debtor cooperation: Full compliance with court orders and timely submission of required documents can expedite the process. 

  1. Court schedules: The availability of court dates and bankruptcy trustees can impact the timeline. 

Overall Timeline of the Bankruptcy Process

Filing for Bankruptcy 

The first step in the bankruptcy process is filing a petition with the bankruptcy court. This filing includes detailed information about the debtor's finances, assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. 

Automatic Stay 

Upon filing, an automatic stay goes into effect, halting most collection actions against the debtor. This provides immediate relief from creditor harassment, wage garnishments, and foreclosure proceedings. 

Meeting of Creditors (341 Meeting) 

Within 20 to 40 days after filing, the trustee will hold a meeting of creditors. During this meeting, creditors can ask the debtor questions about their financial affairs and the bankruptcy case. The debtor must attend this meeting and answer questions under oath. 

Bankruptcy Plan Confirmation (Chapter 13 and Chapter 11) 

For Chapter 13 or Chapter 11 cases, the court must confirm the debtor's repayment plan. This involves a hearing where the judge will determine whether the plan meets legal requirements and is feasible. 

Discharge of Debts

The ultimate goal of bankruptcy is the discharge of debts, which releases the debtor from personal liability for certain debts. The timing of the discharge varies by bankruptcy type: 

  • Chapter 7: Typically three to six months after filing. 

  • Chapter 13: Upon completion of the repayment plan (three to five years). 

  • Chapter 11: After the reorganization plan is completed, which can take several months to years. 

Tips to Expedite the Bankruptcy Process

While some aspects of the bankruptcy process are beyond our control, there are steps debtors can take to help expedite proceedings: 

  • Complete required documentation: Ensure all required paperwork is accurately completed and submitted promptly. Incomplete or incorrect filings can lead to delays. 

  • Attend mandatory courses: Debtors must complete credit counseling before filing and debtor education after filing. Timely completion of these courses is essential. 

  • Communicate regularly with our attorney: Keep open lines of communication with your attorney to address any issues that may arise promptly. 

  • Stay organized: Keep detailed records of all communications, documents, and deadlines related to your bankruptcy case. 

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

To prevent delays, avoid these common pitfalls: 

  • Failing to disclose assets: Be thorough and honest about all assets and liabilities. Failure to disclose can result in penalties and delays. 

  • Missing deadlines: Adhere to all court-imposed deadlines to avoid unnecessary delays in your case. 

  • Ignoring legal advice: Trust and follow the guidance of your bankruptcy attorney to navigate the process efficiently. 

Contact Our Bankruptcy Attorneys Today

The duration of the bankruptcy process can vary widely based on the type of bankruptcy, case complexity, and debtor cooperation. At Vivona Pandurangi, PLC, we are committed to guiding you through every step of the process to ensure a smooth and efficient resolution. 

If you are considering bankruptcy and need expert legal advice, contact our bankruptcy attorneys at Vivona Pandurangi, PLC today. We offer free consultations at our Falls Church and Alexandria offices, serving clients throughout Arlington, Fairfax, Manassas, Fairfax County, Arlington County, Prince William County, and Loudon County. 

Start your journey toward financial freedom with us. Call today to schedule your free consultation.