By Christopher C. Carr, Esq. Chester County bankruptcy attorney.
WHAT IS CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY?
The avowed goal of bankruptcy is to give debtors a “fresh start.” What is a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and how does it go about accomplishing this? The “automatic stay” in bankruptcy applies immediately once a Chapter 7 case is filed and generally halts all collection activities, foreclosures, repossessions, sheriffs’ sales, and etc. while in effect. Let’s first look at the different types of bankruptcy proceedings.
The United States Bankruptcy Code offers two primary paths for consumers:
- A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: In a so called “straight” bankruptcy, the Trustee in bankruptcy seeks to liquidate the debtor’s non exempt property and distribute the proceeds to the creditors in order of priority, in exchange for discharge of all eligible debt. (Exemptions for various property classifications are set out in federal and state law.) However, certain debts such as guaranteed student loans and domestic support obligations are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Most 7’s are “no asset” bankruptcies.
Certain higher income debtors who do not meet the new Means Test must instead file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. If you think you might be a candidate for a 13, you might wish to visit my article on the topic.
- A Chapter 13 “debtor in possession” Bankruptcy: Here, unlike in Chapter 7 proceedings, the debtor retains possession of the assets (hence its nickname). In order to be confirmed by the court, the debtor must prove sufficient income to support a 3-5 year plan wherein payments on secured debt such as mortgages and auto loans (including arrears) and non-dischargeable items continue and unsecured creditors typically get paid a small portion of their debts. For debtors facing mortgage foreclosure, Chapter 13 may be the only choice to halt the process while seeking other remedies within or outside of bankruptcy. However, recent statistics indicate that only about 35% of all 13 plans are ever completed.
There are overall limits as to how much unsecured and/or secured debt a debtor may have and still utilize Chapter 7 or 13. For those who do not qualify, there is only one option:
- Chapter 11, a third type of Bankruptcy, is primarily used to help in debt businesses restructure. An example is the bankruptcy from which GM has successfully emerged with the help of a massive US bailout. It is much more complex, time consuming and expensive than Chapter 7 or 13, but is the sole resort for individual debtors with debt which exceeds the limits mentioned above.
Other than consumer perceptions that bankruptcy is somehow unethical or “wrong”, the primary issue with filing bankruptcy is that it remains on the debtor’s credit for up to 7 (Chapter 17) or 10 years (Chapter 13) from filing and may interfere with efforts to obtain credit, purchase or refinance a home or even obtain employment. However, it should be noted that most who seek this relief already have impaired credit and, more importantly, in reality new credit is generally extended to debtors who keep their payments current for a year or two following discharge. So, in effect bankruptcy can work to “repair” credit.
In summary, the automatic stay provides an effective if temporary refuge from foreclosure and other debt collection activities and many debtors ultimately do obtain the permanent solution to their debt problems, the “fresh start” which is the ultimate objective of the US bankruptcy laws.
©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2009, All Rights Reserved
Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA, P.C., is a quality bankruptcy and debt relief practice, located in Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney, who has over 30 years if diversified ;egal experience, concentrates on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester, Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
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