When deciding whether to pursue a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it is wise to sit down with a bankruptcy attorney and analyze your income, assets, debts, and your financial goals. For example, your situation might be such that you don’t qualify for Chapter 7, and would be better off repaying your debt over a period of time in a Chapter 13 repayment plan approved by a bankruptcy court.
A Chapter 7 is a liquidation bankruptcy designed to erase a person’s unsecured debts (e.g. credit card debt and medical bills). To qualify, you must have little to no disposable income. A Chapter 13 is a reorganization bankruptcy designed for debtors who still have a regular income and are capable of repaying at least some of their debt through a repayment plan. This is the option for those who cannot pass the Chapter 7 means test. Another reason to opt for a Chapter 13 is that it offers some benefits that a Chapter 7 does not (like the ability to catch up on mortgage payments you’ve fallen behind on). Below are some additional factors to consider.
Reasons why you might file for Chapter 7:
- You do not have the ability to repay your debt in a repayment plan.
- You urgently need relief from your creditors. After you file for Chapter 7, the bankruptcy court can issue a discharge order in as little as 3 months; following the discharge order, you will no longer be personally liable for any dischargeable debt.
Reasons why you might file for Chapter 13:
- You are not eligible for Chapter 7 in the first place, or have significant debts that are not dischargeable under a Chapter 7 discharge.
- You want to avoid home foreclosure, stop your car from being repossessed, or keep property that would be nonexempt under Chapter 7.
- You want to repay your debt, rather than have it discharged.