There are several differences between Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 which offer special advantages under the right circumstances. The most common types of personal bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is an “erase-your-debts-and-start-fresh” bankruptcy. The Chapter 7 case typically takes around four to five months and most unsecured debts are discharged.
On the other hand, Chapter 13 cases last three to five years and all disposable income is paid to unsecured creditors. So why would any reasonable person choose Chapter 13 over Chapter 7? There are several differences between Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 which offer special advantages under the right circumstances.
The most significant advantage, and perhaps the main reason many debtors choose Chapter 13, is the opportunity to save a home from foreclosure. Chapter
13 allows the debtor to cure overdue mortgage payments over the life of the repayment plan (three to five years). During a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the debtor may also take advantage of any home loan modification program that he or she is otherwise qualified to receive. Finally, a home that has a second or third mortgage that is completely unsecured may qualify for lien stripping in Chapter 13. Once the junior mortgage is stripped off, the debt is paid at the same rate as other unsecured debts and the remaining balance is discharged at the end of the bankruptcy case.
Another advantage is the ability to “cram-down” a motor vehicle loan to the fair market value of the vehicle. The loan principal of the qualifying vehicle loan is reduced and the payment is stretched over the life of the repayment plan. High interest may also be crammed down to the trustee’s interest rate, which could mean a significant savings in monthly payments.
During a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, any co-debtor or co-signor is protected from creditor collector and harassment. This provision protects a co-debtor from harm while the debt is repaid in bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 also acts like a court ordered consolidation loan. The bankruptcy court judge orders the creditors to accept payments during bankruptcy, whether they like it or not. The debtor has no direct contact with the creditors during the case. If the creditor has an issue with how its debt is treated in bankruptcy, the creditor must take it up with the judge.
Chapter 13 can be a powerful legal tool for some debtors, but it is not for everyone. The federal bankruptcy code contains many provisions that are specifically suited to help individuals recover during financial crisis. The protection is broad and the relief is very real. If you are struggling financially, speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney and learn how the bankruptcy laws can help you.
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