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Chicago Bankruptcy Question: What is the normal timeline for a Chapter 13?

Chicago Bankruptcy Question of the Day: What is the normal timeline for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the Chicago area?  Local bankruptcy rules, trustee procedures, judge procedures and the Chapter 13 process' are different in every jurisdiction.  This is one of the reasons that when you seek out an attorney to represent you in Chapter 13, you hire one who focusses their practice exclusively on the Chicago area.

The first step in any Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the preparation and filing of your bankruptcy petition and plan.  This is what officially begins the case and triggers the automatic stay of bankruptcy, which is what protects you from your creditors.  In the Chicago area, as soon as you file your case, the clerk of the court assigns you a case number, a Chapter 13 trustee and a date and time for your Section 341 Meeting of Creditors.  The Meeting of Creditors is usually the only appearance that you are required to make in this process.  If you are in Cook County, the meeting will be held on a weekday afternoon, from Monday through Thursday.  If you are in a collar county, the days and times of the meetings vary by county.  Generally speaking, the meeting will be conducted between thirty and sixty days from the date of filing, depending on how heavy the filing volume is when you file your Chapter 13.

Your first payment to the Chapter 13 trustee is due thirty days after your date of filing.  It is irrelevant if your meeting of creditors has been held yet, you are still responsible for making that payment.  Your payments are due every thirty days thereafter and you should never stop making payments until your bankruptcy attorney or the Chapter 13 trustee advises you to do so in writing.

Approximately thirty days after your Section 341 Meeting of Creditors is concluded, there will be a court date assigned to your case known as your confirmation hearing.  Generally speaking, you are not required to attend this hearing, as that is what you have an attorney for.  In Cook County, these hearings are conducted in the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago.  In the collar counties, the hearings are at various locations, depending on which county you file in.  The purpose of this hearing is to hear and resolve any objections to your Chapter 13 plan of reorganization filed by your creditors or the Chapter 13 trustee and to have your plan approved (confirmed) by the bankruptcy judge.  Often it will take more than one hearing to get a case confirmed.

Once your Chapter 13 is confirmed, then for all intensive purposes it is set in stone.  Your creditors and the trustee are no longer permitted to object to your plan, except in rare circumstances, and are bound by the plan of reorganization so long as you continue to perform your obligations under the plan.  Your plan payments should be scheduled to last for between three to five years (unless you are paying all of your scheduled debts in less time).  If your financial situation changes significantly during the life of your Chapter 13 plan, you may be able to have your plan modified to address the changes.  This requires the preparation and prosecution of a motion in the bankruptcy court, so you need to contact your bankruptcy attorney as soon as your situation changes.

If you are considering filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in Chicago, you want to ensure that you are represented by an attorney who is experienced in Chicago Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases.  A good bankruptcy lawyer will take the time to explain the process to you, discuss potential issues and likely objections and be able to address any post-confirmation changes quickly and accurately.  The Chicago bankruptcy attorneys at Ledford & Wu have successfully handled thousands of Chapter 13 cases in the Chicago area, and only in the Chicago area, and are happy to offer you a free consultation to explain to you how your Chapter 13 can work.

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