Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the two main chapters under which individuals can file personal bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation of assets while Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a reorganization where the debtor creates a three to five year payment plan.
The primary reasons for filing personal bankruptcy are unforeseen medical expenses, excessive credit card debt, loss of employment, and divorce. Needless to say many of these events create not only financial difficulty but also a tremendous amount of disruption and distress in and of themselves. This makes it especially important that individuals consider all available options and bankruptcy alternatives to make sure whatever action they settle upon is in their long term interest.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy, sometimes call a straight bankruptcy is a liquidation proceeding. The debtor turns over all non-exempt property to the bankruptcy trustee who then converts it to cash for distribution to the creditors. The debtor receives a discharge of all dischargeable debts usually within four months. In the vast majority of cases the debtor has no assets that he would lose so Chapter 7 will give that person a relatively quick "fresh start".
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is also known as a reorganization bankruptcy. Chapter13 bankruptcy is filed by individuals who want to pay off their debts over a period of three to five years. This type of bankruptcy appeals to individuals who have non-exempt property that they want to keep. It is also only an option for individuals who have predictable income and whose income is sufficient to pay their reasonable expenses with some amount left over to pay off their debts.
US Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Illinois