How long is a chapter 13 plan?

The duration of your Chapter 13 repayment plan can vary, as the amount of time needed to pay off the debts in your bankruptcy plan depends significantly on your regular income. However, it generally involves a timeline between three and five years. Some Chapter 13 filers can qualify for a three-year repayment plan but may opt for the full five years.

Let’s examine all the steps that impact the duration of your repayment plan.

1.Take a Detailed Look at Your Income

Income plays a great factor in determining whether filing a Chapter 13 case is a feasible option for you. However, if you believe you qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy (or a “reorganization” as it’s also referred to), you must collect and organize all necessary documentation.

You must obtain copies of your credit reporting agencies’ credit reports (three major agencies are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax), who your creditors are, and determine how much debt you owe.

The length of a Chapter 13 repayment plan can vary. However, it generally requires a timeline somewhere between three and five years. The amount of time needed to pay off the debts in your bankruptcy plan depends significantly on your regular income. Some Chapter 13 filers can qualify for a three-year repayment plan but may opt for the entire program of five years.

Keep in mind that not all debts are listed on your credit report. You’ll be responsible for disclosing all obligations on your bankruptcy forms, regardless of whether they are or aren’t listed on your credit reports. Unlisted debt can include but is not limited to): medical bills, tax debts, fees, and any fines you may have incurred.

Tip: Keeping an organized list is ideal. You may have a bankruptcy attorney assist you with this process, as it can be overwhelming. 

Obtaining these reports can take a day to a week.

Additionally, you will also need the following documentation, which will significantly impact the length of your repayment plan and your eligibility for Chapter 13:

  • Tax returns from the previous four years
  • Pay stubs or additional proof of income for the six months before filing
  • Bank statements from three to six months earlier
  • Recent mortgage statements
  • Real estate tax bills

Filing your bankruptcy form will be much smoother and faster if you have all financial documents neatly organized and readily available.

2. Examine Your Debt

Make a note of what type of debt each item and document reflect: medical debt, payday loans, fines, or credit card debt.

The examination process also involves correctly marking each debt as unsecured debt or secured debt.

Next, you should determine priority debt and non-priority. An example of a priority debt would be child support or alimony.

This information will determine the order in which your trustee will distribute Chapter 13 monthly repayment plan payments.

The duration of this step is determined by:

  • How you kept your financial records
  • What type of debt
  • How much of your debt appears on your credit reports
  • If you are attempting to file alone or are represented by an attorney

3. Take Inventory of Property

Next, you will examine the property you own and assess its value. This step is critical in determining what property is protected under exemption law.

The duration of this step depends on how much and what type of property you own.

4. Determine Status of Income and Set a Budget

During this step, building a budget and determining your income status are vital. Here you are establishing that your current income is enough to meet the monthly repayment plan payments.

5. Take a Credit Counseling Course

Note: Everyone filing for Chapter 13 must complete a credit counseling course. 

Before commencing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, completing a credit counseling course (approved by the U.S. Dept. of Justice) is mandatory. The duration of the course is approximately one hour.

6.  Complete Bankruptcy Forms

Bankruptcy forms are considered the most arduous step of this type of bankruptcy.

The forms will question you on how much you make, spend, owe, and own. There are 23 forms (approximately 70 pages). In these forms, you must submit all of your financial data and provide the court with an accurate portrait of your financial situation.

7.  File Your Chapter 13 Petition and Pay Filing Fees

If you file for yourself: once you’ve filled out and reviewed your forms, making sure all information is accurate (from dates, signatures, figures, and amounts), print out copies and bring them to court. Be sure to include your credit counseling certificate along with your bankruptcy forms. Additionally, you must pay your filing fees.

Total Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Filing and Repayment Plan Duration

Aside from a three-to-five-year repayment plan, all of the steps described above can take weeks or even months depending on whether you attempt the process alone or with a bankruptcy attorney.

The success rate for those filing Chapter 13 without an attorney is drastically lower than individuals filing for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy as it is comprised of much greater detail and complexities.

It is highly advisable and wise to contact a knowledgeable and experienced bankruptcy attorney to assist and represent you when filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

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