The duration of your bankruptcy case from filing to discharge depends primarily on the type of case you file and the court in which you file. A run-of-the-mill Chapter 7 bankruptcy case usually won't exceed six months in duration and can often end in four months or less. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy typically runs from three to five years from filing to discharge.
Chapter 7 Process
Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases follow a predetermined timeline that is pretty similar for most cases unless there are irregularities, such as missing paperwork or objections from creditors or the trustee. Once you submit your bankruptcy petition, you'll get a notice of your 341 meeting approximately 20 to 40 days after you file. The 341 meeting offers your case trustee the chance to review and question you about any of the information on your bankruptcy petition. Creditors are also invited to the meeting and are free to ask you questions as well.
After your 341 meeting, you'll typically receive your discharge in as few as 60 days, although a court backlog could delay the process. Objections can obviously delay this process as well, but so can sloppy paperwork. You're required to complete a financial management course after your 341 meeting, and if you don't submit proof of completion to the court in a timely manner, your case may be delayed or even dismissed.
Chapter 13 Process
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a more complicated and time consuming process than Chapter 7. However, the main reason Chapter 13 takes so long compared to Chapter 7 is that you have to complete a payment plan to your creditors, the duration of which is either three or five years. After completing the 341 meeting, as with a Chapter 7 case, you'll have to present a payment plan to the court at a confirmation hearing, which usually takes place 20 to 45 days after the 341 meeting. In the meantime, you'll being making your monthly payments, which may be adjusted after your confirmation hearing.
Whether your plan lasts five years or only three depends on your income, as listed in your bankruptcy petition. If you fall below the median income in your state, you can escape with just a three-year payment plan. However, if you're above the median income in your state, your plan will last the full five years.
All bankruptcy cases are long on procedure and short on flexibility. Consult a bankruptcy attorney to help achieve the shortest and smoothest bankruptcy possible.