Across the great state of Georgia, many families, businesses, and individuals have been experiencing tough financial times due to the ongoing economic recession. Our office receives daily calls from Georgians who are interested in filing for bankruptcy as a way to alleviate their debt and start over with a clean financial slate. One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is: “How long will a Chapter 7 bankruptcy take from beginning to end?”
While each bankruptcy case is different, a normal Chapter 7 case with no complications or underlying issues should take about four to six months. (But remember, case-specific complexities can lengthen the processing time greatly). Read on for more information about the Chapter 7 bankruptcy timeframes.
First Things First: What is a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows an individual or married couple (called “the debtor”) to wipe out certain types of debt such as medical bills and credit card debt. This wiping away of debt is called a discharge. In return for the bankruptcy court giving the debtor a discharge, all of the debtor’s non-exempt assets and property will be sold and the proceeds will be used to pay the debtor’s creditors as much of what is owed to them as possible. Afterward, any remaining debt is wiped away and the debtor is no longer responsible for it. For more information on Chapter 7, feel free to read additional blog posts available here.
How Do I Start the Chapter 7 Process?
It is highly, highly recommended that anyone interested in filing for bankruptcy in Georgia should work with an experienced attorney. Working with an attorney is beneficial for many reasons, not the least of which is that the attorney will know exactly how to prepare the initial documents that must be filed with the bankruptcy court in order to begin the Chapter 7 process. These documents include papers and schedules that detail the debtor’s income, debts, exempt and non-exempt assets, etc.
What Happens Next?
After filing the case with the bankruptcy court, the court will send the debtor (and the debtor’s attorney) an official notice that schedules a special meeting called the 341 meeting or the meeting of creditors. Debtors must attend this meeting which will be scheduled between 20 and 40 days after the case is filed. At the meeting, the bankruptcy trustee will question the debtors, under oath, about the information provided on the papers that were filed with the court. (The 341 meeting illustrates another good reason to work with an attorney: the attorney will be present with you at the meeting and will help you prepare for the meeting beforehand so you know how to answer the questions).
In the typical Chapter 7 case, a couple to a few months after the 341 meeting, the court closes the case by issuing the final decree and the debtor officially receives the bankruptcy discharge.
Why Might Your Chapter 7 Case Take Longer to Complete?
While there are many reasons why any given Chapter 7 case could become long and drawn-out, the following issues are frequently the cause of delays:
- You did not complete the initial paperwork correctly and so the bankruptcy trustee must ask you for more information and reschedule the 341 meeting
- You do not quickly complete the required financial management course
- You claim a certain asset or piece of property as exempt and your creditor or the bankruptcy trustee disagrees with you.
Luckily, working with a Georgia bankruptcy lawyer will help you prevent or overcome all of these potential issues and other stumbling blocks that may delay your Chapter 7 case. To learn more about hiring an experienced attorney, contact our office today. We look forward to speaking with you!