Chapter 7 Bankruptcy completely discharges (wipes out) unsecured debts–credit cards, medical bills, and any other debts, which do not have collateral, attached to them. It is the most common type of bankruptcy is commonly known as a “Fresh Start” Bankruptcy. The filing of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will also stop garnishments and civil lawsuit proceedings and, in most cases, discharge the debts underlying these proceedings.

Characteristics of Chapter 7 include:

Permanent Discharge of Unsecured Debts

Debts are wiped out that have no property attached to them: e.g., credit cards, unpaid medical bills, repossession deficiencies, signature loans, payday/cash advance loans, most collections and lawsuits. Secured debts, which are debts secured by property such as a car or house, are also discharged if the property is surrendered.

For example, the secured loan on a car is wiped out (discharged) if the car has been repossessed and if you owe more than the car is worth (a repossession deficiency). If the car has not already been repossessed, the property can be surrendered before or after you file for bankruptcy.

Automatic Stay

After you sign the Chapter 7 Petition and schedules prepared for you by us, we will electronically file all documents with the Clerk of the United States Bankruptcy Court. Immediately upon filing, a Protection Order is entered by the Court to protect you from all creditor action. The Bankruptcy Court orders all creditors to stop all harassing phone calls, lawsuits, threats, judgments, repossessions, and garnishments. This Protection Order is known as the “Automatic Stay.”

Keep Exempt Property

Many people keep all of their property in a bankruptcy. If you have furniture and household goods of average value and are willing to keep your car payment(s) current, you will most likely keep all of your personal property.

Keep your House and Car

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may continue to pay your mortgage or your car loan and keep the house or car. If you want to keep your car, you may be required to sign a “Reaffirmation Agreement.” In effect, the reaffirmation agreement takes the place of your original agreement and essentially makes it as though you have not filed a bankruptcy on those particular loans.

Usually homeowners who file for bankruptcy do so because they do not have enough equity to refinance their home to pay of their unsecured debts. So long as you do not have more than about $60,000 ($90,000 if “elderly”) of equity after typical closing costs from a sale, you virtually assured of keeping your home so long as you continue to make your mortgage payments (and secured lines of credit, if any). Our firm will assist you in doing a fair market analysis of your home to ensure your home will be protected if you file for bankruptcy protection.

So long as you continue to make your car payments, you can typically keep your vehicle(s). Most people who have car payments do not have enough or any equity in their vehicle for the cars to be considered non-exempt. In fact, in the majority of cases, people owe more than the car is worth. Only in cases where you have a car that is worth far more than the amount owed on it, or a car of significant value where you have no loan on it at all, l would not be allowed to keep your vehicle in a bankruptcy proceeding or have to pay the non-exempt portion to the Chapter 7 Trustee. Our law firm will help you determine if your vehicle is exempt.

Chapter 7 also gives you an option to “Redeem Your Vehicle.” This process involves you paying the secured creditor the fair market value of the collateral, which is typically far lower than the amount you still owe on your current car loan, when you purchased your vehicle. In exchange for redeeming your vehicle, the creditor provides you with the release of their lien. There are several redemption finance companies we can refer you to that will provide you with a loan with new, lower payments based upon your vehicle’s current, fair market value.

Property you cannot keep

The following property is typically non-exempt and can be used to pay at least a portion of the claims of creditors. Examples of non-exempt property include: cash and bonds (not part of a retirement account), investments, equity in a second home, family heirlooms over a certain value, valuable collections such as paintings, coins, or stamps, and expensive trade or business equipment.

The state median income level

Under the new bankruptcy laws effective October 17, 2005, if your income is above the Colorado State’s median income, you may not qualify for Chapter 7 protection. Under our website section, “Will I Qualify for Chapter 7?” you will find an explanation of the “means test” that is used in determining your eligibility for Chapter 7.

Non-Dischargeable Unsecured Debts

Certain unsecured debts are not dischargeable in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and must continue to be repaid in full. These include most unpaid taxes, government-backed student loans, and unpaid child support. However, in many cases, your monthly payments of these debts can be restructured and lowered by filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. (For more information, see our section under  “Chapter 13 Bankruptcy“.;)

How long does a Chapter 7 take

The length of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case is typically 3-4 months from filing the bankruptcy petition to the final discharge of debts. All Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 debtors must complete a post-petition Financial Management Course before they receive a discharge from their debts. This Course is intended to help Debtors identify and correct the financial mistakes that led to bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 case, your case is usually completed approximately 90 days after your Meeting of Creditors; at that time, you will receive a single-Topic document titled Discharge of Debtor from the court.

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We are a Federally Designated Debt Relief Agency and Bankruptcy Lawyers who help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code. We do not retain clients on the strength of advertising material alone but only after following our own engagement procedures based on in-person interviews, conflict checks, and retainer agreements. The information contained on this site is intended to educate members of the public generally and is not intended to provide solutions to individual problems. Nor does the use or reliance of information contained on this web site constitute the establishment of a lawyer-client relationship. Readers are cautioned not to attempt to solve individual problems on the basis of information contained herein and are strongly advised to seek competent legal counsel before relying on information on this site. Serving the cities of Arvada, Aurora, Boulder, Brighton, Broomfield, Castle Rock, Centennial, Cherry Hills, Conifer, Commerce City, Denver, Denver Tech, Erie, Evergreen, Greenwood Village, Golden, Highlands Ranch, Lafayette, Lakewood, Littleton, Lodo, Longmont, Louisville, Lone Tree, Morrison, Northglenn, Parker, Thornton, Ft. Collins, Nederland, Rollinsville, and Westminster.