Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the process by which an individual is allowed to undertake a “reorganization” of their finances. An individual can seek Chapter 13 bankruptcy when they have sufficient income to make payments to their creditors under a repayment plan.
In a Chapter 13 proceeding, the debtor begins making payments to a trustee appointed by the bankruptcy court. The debtor must also present the court with a proposed repayment plan lasting either three or five years. The plan must be approved by the debtor’s creditors. It can also be approved by the bankruptcy court, over the objections of creditors, so long as the plan meets the requirements under Chapter 13.
Under a Chapter 13 repayment plan, a debtor can:
- Consolidate debts
- Cure arrearages on mortgages or other long-term debts
- Avoid “underwater” loans
- Pay back taxes over time
- Partially repay unsecured debt
If the debtor makes all payments required under the repayment plan and meets other requirements, the bankruptcy court can discharge outstanding debts, including some debts that cannot be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy also has the benefit of allowing a debtor to keep most or all of their property and assets – which would sold off in a Chapter 7 liquidation – even though the debtor’s creditors are likely to receive less than the outstanding balances owed by the debtor.