Stages of Bankruptcy

By Mike Broemmel

The U.S. Bankruptcy Code, as well as the local rules of individual bankruptcy courts across the United States, establish specific procedures for pursuing a bankruptcy case. Although there are some minor variations from one jurisdiction to another, the process essentially is the same across the country. Before you pursue a bankruptcy, familiarize yourself with the different stages of a case.

Preparation

The initial stage of bankruptcy is the preparation phase. During this stage you, as the debtor, organize all records necessary to pursue a bankruptcy. These documents include account statements associated with all debts, statements from financial accounts, tax returns and paycheck stubs.

Petition and Related Documents

Prepare the petition and related documents. You can obtain a standard form petition and related documents from the bankruptcy court clerk. These documents are available both through the brick-and-mortar world office of the bankruptcy court clerk and the court's website.

Completely fill out all sections of the petition. Complete what is known as a matrix or index of creditors. The matrix or index is a master list of all creditors. Include the name and address of the creditor, the account number and the amount that you owe.

Once these documents are completed, file them with the bankruptcy court clerk, commencing the case.

Creditors' Meeting

The next milestone or stage of bankruptcy is the creditors' meeting. The creditors' meeting is held before the bankruptcy court trustee, the court official assigned to oversee the day-to-day progress of the case.

The bankruptcy court trustee questions you about your assets and debts as well as other issues related to the case. Additionally, creditors can question you during this session. Typically a creditors' meeting lasts less than 30 minutes.

Discharge

The final stage of bankruptcy is the discharge. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the discharge occurs within about 6 months of the start of the case. A debtor obtains a discharge of debt in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Because a Chapter 13 bankruptcy involved a repayment of debt through a court-supervised payment plan, the discharge of this type of case occurs when the time frame for the payment plan is completed.

About the Author

Mike Broemmel began writing in 1982. He is an author/lecturer with two novels on the market internationally, "The Shadow Cast" and "The Miller Moth." Broemmel served on the staff of the White House Office of Media Relations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and political science from Benedictine College and a Juris Doctorate from Washburn University. He also attended Brunel University, London.