Why Is My Bankruptcy Taking So Long?

03 Dec Why Is My Bankruptcy Taking So Long?

formsOkay, that’s really a trick question, because many bankruptcies don’t take long at all, at least compared to other legal proceedings. But there are some problems that can cause delays, and it may be helpful to know what is “normal,” to the extent that there is such a thing in bankruptcy. Remember, no two people have identical assets, debts, and income, so no two bankruptcy cases are exactly alike.

The first thing that will impact how long your bankruptcy case will last is you. Yep, to some extent, you are in control. The sooner you get together all the paperwork requested by your attorney or the trustee in your case, the sooner your case can proceed. There are some documents, like tax returns or proof of income, that will hold up either filing or completion of your case. Providing all the requested documentation, all at one time, will speed up the process. And remember, your bankruptcy attorney is not your mother.

Different kinds of bankruptcy cases take more or less time to complete. A fairly simple, routine Chapter 7 bankruptcy case will generally take about six months from the time it is filed with the court until the time you receive your discharge, which frequently coincides with closing your case. That may be affected by crowded court dockets, or actions taken by your creditors, or other complications, but it’s usually pretty quick. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy, on the other hand, will generally take at least three years, and often more than five. It’s a payment plan, and it simply lasts longer. (To my mind, one of the great advantages of Chapter 7 is its speed.) Chapter 11 cases, which are generally business reorganizations, can be very fast, or excruciatingly slow, depending on the circumstances of the case, and the goals the Chapter 11 is trying to meet. (I was reminded of that by the Detroit municipal bankruptcy, which is a Chapter 9 case. Chapter 9 is like a Chapter 11 for municipalities. The case was filed in July, and we are still waiting for the judge to decide whether it was properly filed five months later.)

Another factor to consider is what is going to happen to your assets. If you have assets that are subject to liquidation by a Chapter 7 trustee, the trustee may take more time than you expect to liquidate those assets, and then the trustee has other administrative tasks to perform. So, even after you have received your discharge in Chapter 7, your case my continue to be administered by the trustee. I always tell my clients to expect the process of a Chapter 7 trustee administering assets to take longer than they think it will, and I am never wrong.

An experienced bankruptcy lawyer, who is familiar with your individual circumstances, can advise you what to expect, and will be familiar with issues like crowded dockets or limited courtroom time, which may affect your case.

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