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An overview of how a Chapter 7 bankruptcy process begins

If you have reached the point where you are considering Chapter 7 bankruptcy as an option for debt relief -- and assuming that you qualify to use Chapter 7 bankruptcy -- then your next inquiry may be how the Chapter 7 process works.

To begin with, you will file a petition for bankruptcy with the appropriate bankruptcy court for your jurisdiction in New Jersey. At this point you will also need to file some additional paperwork concerning matters such as your financial situation, how much money you make, and what your expenses are. 

Your bankruptcy attorney will know the particulars of the documentation that you will need to file but, generally speaking, you will need to have the following information:

  • a list of your creditors, and what kind of claims they have;
  • how much income you make, its source, and how often you are paid;
  • a list of all of your property; and
  • a list of your monthly living expenses.

Depending on how much money you make, you may be required to pay filing fees, or the fee may be waived by the court if your income is low enough.

Once your petition is properly filed, the “automatic stay” will become effective against many of your creditors. This means that they will be required to stop trying to contact you or to take legal action against you to collect debts.

The next step in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be a meeting of creditors. In this meeting, you, the bankruptcy trustee, and your creditors will gather and discuss your financial matters and your property.

Aside from determining the validity of your petition, the trustee must also ensure that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities during and after your bankruptcy proceeding.

If everything goes well during the filing and the meeting of creditors, the next step will be the actual discharge of eligible debts, which will typically happen within 60 to 90 days after the meeting.

This process can seem complicated and overwhelming to people who are already struggling with the significant stress of unmanageable debt. This is why having the guidance and experience of a bankruptcy attorney could certainly be beneficial. 

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