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.
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.
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.
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.