What Is the Difference in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

What Is the Difference in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal process that provides individuals or businesses with relief from overwhelming debt. It allows debtors to reorganize their financial affairs or liquidate their assets to repay their creditors. Two commonly used types of bankruptcy in the United States are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. While both serve the purpose of providing debt relief, they differ in various aspects. This article will delve into the specifics of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, highlighting their differences and answering some frequently asked questions.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy:

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also known as “liquidation bankruptcy,” is designed for individuals, married couples, or businesses facing severe financial distress. The main objective of Chapter 7 is to discharge most, if not all, of the debtor’s unsecured debts. This includes credit card bills, medical bills, personal loans, and certain tax debts.

Here are some key features of Chapter 7 bankruptcy:

1. Means Test: To qualify for Chapter 7, debtors must pass the means test, which examines their income, expenses, and family size. If their income is below the state median or they don’t have sufficient disposable income, they can file for Chapter 7.

2. Automatic Stay: When a debtor files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, an automatic stay is initiated. This halts all collection efforts from creditors, including lawsuits, wage garnishments, and harassing phone calls.

3. Liquidation: A bankruptcy trustee is appointed to evaluate the debtor’s assets and determine if any can be sold to repay creditors. However, many states have exemptions that protect certain assets from being liquidated.

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4. Discharge: Once the liquidation process is completed, the debtor receives a discharge, which releases them from personal liability for most debts. However, certain debts, such as student loans, child support, and taxes, may not be dischargeable.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy:

Chapter 13 bankruptcy, also known as “reorganization bankruptcy,” is primarily designed for individuals or married couples with a regular income who want to repay their debts over time. Unlike Chapter 7, Chapter 13 does not involve liquidation of assets.

Here are some key features of Chapter 13 bankruptcy:

1. Repayment Plan: Debtors propose a repayment plan that lasts between three to five years, based on their income and expenses. This plan consolidates their debts into manageable monthly payments, allowing them to catch up on missed payments and pay off a portion of their debts.

2. Automatic Stay: Similar to Chapter 7, Chapter 13 also triggers an automatic stay, providing relief from creditor actions.

3. Protection of Assets: Debtors can retain their assets while undergoing Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, they must use their disposable income to fund the repayment plan.

4. Discharge: Upon successful completion of the repayment plan, the debtor receives a discharge of any remaining eligible debts. This discharge is broader than Chapter 7, as it can include certain debts that are not dischargeable in Chapter 7, such as certain tax debts and mortgage arrears.


Q: How long does Chapter 7 bankruptcy take?
A: Typically, Chapter 7 bankruptcy takes around three to six months from filing to discharge.

Q: Can I choose between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
A: The choice of bankruptcy chapter depends on various factors such as income, expenses, and the type of debt you have. Consulting with a bankruptcy attorney can help you determine the most suitable option for your situation.

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Q: Will bankruptcy ruin my credit?
A: Bankruptcy does have a negative impact on credit, but it also provides an opportunity for a fresh financial start. With time and responsible financial management, you can rebuild your credit.

Q: Can I keep my home and car in bankruptcy?
A: In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, exemptions may allow you to keep your home and car, provided you continue making payments. In Chapter 13, you can usually retain your assets as long as you continue to make payments according to the repayment plan.

In conclusion, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy serve different purposes and cater to individuals’ diverse financial situations. Chapter 7 focuses on discharging unsecured debts through liquidation, while Chapter 13 involves a repayment plan to reorganize and repay debts over time. Understanding the differences between these bankruptcy chapters and seeking professional advice can help individuals make informed decisions about their financial future.