Converting a Chapter 13 to a Chapter 7

by Brett Weiss, Esq.

August 16, 2007

The decision of whether to convert a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is not simple. There are many, many reasons why people convert their Chapter 13 to a Chapter 7. Once your case is converted, you may be concerned that you might lose your house or a car. You may be concerned about the effect of the conversion on your credit. You want to know whether you will have to pay additional legal fees for the conversion. You may simply want to know what is involved when you convert your case. This blog will give you at least some of the answers to your questions.

When Can I Convert My Case? Section 1307(a) of the Bankruptcy Code says that, assuming you haven’t previously converted your case from another chapter and are eligible for a Chapter 7, you can convert a Chapter 13 case to a Chapter 7 case at an time, for any reason. Assuming you qualify, this is an absolute right, and there are no restrictions.

Why Would I Want to Convert My Case? There are many, many reasons why people convert their Chapter 13 to a Chapter 7. Some common ones are:

‘Inability to Make Chapter 13 Plan Payments. If you can’t pay the Chapter 13 Trustee your regular monthly Trustee payment, he or she will file a Motion to Dismiss your case. Conversion to a Chapter 7 may be a good option in such circumstances.

Inability to Make Mortgage/Car Payments. Many Chapter 13 cases are filed in an attempt to catch up payments on a mortgage or car. But you are also required to resume making those payments after the case is filed. If you don’t, the lender will usually file a Motion for Relief From the Automatic Stay, asking the Court to allow a foreclosure or repossession. If you’re going to lose the house or car anyway, conversion to a Chapter 7, where any liability for a shortage or deficiency when the sale occurs is wiped out, often makes sense.

Desire to Simply Have the Case Over. Sometimes, simply having to be in a bankruptcy case for the 3-5 years that a Chapter 13 takes can be stressful. Some people are willing to surrender some assets in a Chapter 7 instead of making to make the monthly Chapter 13 payments for an extended period of time.

How Do I Convert My Case? Conversion is easy. A Notice of Conversion or Motion to Convert, depending on your Court’s local procedures, is filed. The Court enters a Conversion Order in a day or two. Again, depending on local practice and the details of your case, you may have to file a new Means Test form and amended schedules. You may be entitled to a refund of some or all of the payments held by the Chapter 13 Trustee that haven’t been sent to your creditors.

What Happens When I Convert My Case? You have to attend a new Meeting of Creditors (341 Meeting), and comply with the requirements for a Chapter 7.

Can I Add Creditors? Yes. You can add debt you have incurred since your Chapter 13 case was filed.

Will I Have to Pay My Attorney More Money? There is a $25 conversion fee that has to be paid to the Court. Depending on the status of your Chapter 13 case, you may or may not have to pay your lawyer additional fees for him or her to handle your Chapter 7 case. Generally, the earlier in your Chapter 13 case you convert the less money (if any) that would have to be paid in additional attorney’s fees. Check with your attorney.

Can I Do This Myself? You can legally represent yourself in Court. You can also legally remove your own appendix, troubleshoot your gas furnace and design and build a bridge. But if things go wrong by not having someone whose job it is to do these things, the results can be both more painful and expensive to correct than it would have been to hire someone good in the first place.

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Brett Weiss, a senior partner at Chung & Press, LLC, represents people and businesses in all phases of bankruptcy. He has experience in complex individual Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, and in Chapter 11 small business restructuring and reorganization. Mr. Weiss lectures nationally on bankruptcy issues. He has testified before the Federal Bankruptcy Rules Committee, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and has twice testified before Congress on bankruptcy and credit issues. Brett Weiss is the co-author of Chapter 11 for Individual Debtors, and has written Not Dead Yet: Bankruptcy After BAPCPA, for the Maryland Bar Journal, as well as hundreds of blogs for the Bankruptcy Law Network. With his law partner, he recorded a 13-hour basic bankruptcy training series, and leads intensive three-day Chapter 11 training boot camps. Mr. Weiss has received international media attention in connection with his work. He was interviewed by Barbara Walters on The View, has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC News with Peter Jennings, the Montel Williams Show, National Public Radio, AARP-TV, the BBC World Service, German state television, and numerous local radio and television programs, and been quoted in Money magazine, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, among others. Brett Weiss is the Maryland State Chair for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, a founding member of the Bankruptcy Law Network, on the board of the Maryland State Bar Consumer Bankruptcy Council, and a member of the American Bankruptcy Institute, the Bankruptcy Bar Association of Maryland, and the Civil Justice Network. He has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” every year since 2007 for Maryland and the District of Columbia, and in 2011 received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys for his work on behalf of consumers across the country. Mr. Weiss is admitted to practice before Maryland and District of Columbia federal and state courts, the United States Courts of Appeals for the DC, Fourth and Eighth Circuits, The United States Tax Court, and the Supreme Court of the United States, and has been practicing law since 1983.

Last modified: June 1, 2011