If you're overwhelmed with debt, filing for bankruptcy can give you a fresh financial start—but it's important to know what you're getting into. Find step-by-step guides for filing for the different types of bankruptcy, as well as any pitfalls and legal challenges you might run into in the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is bankruptcy?

    Bankruptcy is a legal process designed to help individuals and companies get a financial fresh start by discarding or making arrangements to repay unmanageable debt. It allows people who can no longer pay their debts to liquidate assets or create a repayment plan, ultimately removing the debts. While there are several different types of bankruptcy and different qualifying factors for each, the end goal is the same: to be discharged from debts and get a financial fresh start.

  • How long does bankruptcy stay on your credit report?

    Filing for bankruptcy can impact your credit. If you filed for protection using Chapters 7, 11, 12, or 13 of the Bankruptcy Code, the information will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years from the date of when the request was filed. That being said, the impact bankruptcy will have on your credit will decrease as time passes and as you add positive information to your credit report. In some cases, the information can be reported for longer than 10 years.

  • How do you file for bankruptcy?

    To file for bankruptcy, a person, couple, or corporation must file a petition to the bankruptcy court. This is how a bankruptcy case will begin. All bankruptcy cases are accepted and managed in federal courts under specific regulations outlined in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

  • What is Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

    Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates most debt through the liquidation of assets. The court appoints a trustee to oversee your case, and part of the trustee's job is to take ownership of your assets, sell them, and distribute that money to your creditors. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most common type of bankruptcy in the United States.

  • What is Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

    Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows a debtor to seek shelter from creditors and set up a debt repayment plan while protecting their assets from liquidation. It is a common type of bankruptcy, but it's only available to individuals with sufficient income to stick with the repayment plan.

Key Terms

Chef leaning against a prep table looking distressed about his business
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
A mother working on her laptop from home
How To Avoid Bankruptcy and Spare Your Credit
Lawyer explaining paperwork to a client
Chapter 15 Bankruptcy
Male and female lawyers discussing over document at conference table in meeting
This is How Much You Can Expect to Pay to File for Bankruptcy.
A woman is looking at her cellphone and has a bill in her other hand. Her laptop is in front of her.
If You Declare Bankruptcy, Can You Keep Some Credit Cards?
The courthouse for bankruptcies in Dayton, Ohio, showing Ionic-style columns and the word "BANKRUPTCY"
Nonexempt Assets In Bankruptcy
Man and woman in a field of crops looking at vegetables they've picked off their farm
Chapter 12 Bankruptcy
What to know about bankruptcy discharge of debt. A bankruptcy discharge is a court order that relieves you of your obligation to pay a debt following a bankruptcy hearing case While collectors are prohibited from taking collection action on a discharged debt, they can still repossess and sell any property attached to a loan Credit card debt, medical bills, and personal loans are a few types of debt with a good chance of being discharged Child support, fines resulting from criminal activity, and student loans are debts that can’t be discharged under Chapter 7 bankruptcy
Bankruptcy Discharge
A woman is sitting on a couch, holding bills in one hand and looking at her laptop. A man is leaning forward to see the laptop.
Too Broke to File Bankruptcy? Here's help.
Man using smart phone and calculator to determine the amounts of his chapter 13 payment.
How much will my Chapter 13 payment be?
Woman working on laptop at home with pastries and coffee, chin in hand
Liquidated Debt
Woman using an ATM.
How to Handle a Garnishment
Lawyer trustee with paperwork
What Is a Bankruptcy Trustee?
Crowded intersection on a busy downtown street
Chapter 9 Bankruptcy
Man sits on coach and reads phone looking concerned
How Soon Can I Qualify for a Mortgage After Bankruptcy?
Woman looking overwhelmed by all her credit cards
Preferential Transfer
Person on their phone next to a car
Keep Your Ride: Do Not Lose Your Car in Bankruptcy
Couple looking at bills
Involuntary Bankruptcy
Tired businesswoman rests head in hand at desk with laptop
Voluntary Bankruptcy
A man and a woman are paying bills. The woman is using a calculator. They both look stressed.
What Are Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions?
Male creditor filling out proof of claim form
How to File a Bankruptcy Proof of Claim Form
Hand holding money over purse
How Long Does Bankruptcy's Automatic Stay Last?
living with a bipolar spouse
Can I File Bankruptcy Without My Spouse?
Street view of turn-of-the-century bank with modern highrises in the background, symbollizing the transition of bankruptcy within the judicial and business worlds
History of Bankruptcy in the United States
A group of business workers looking over paperwork
Tips for Choosing Do-It-Yourself Bankruptcy Software
Erase Debt
What's the Difference Between General Discharge vs. Dischargeability?
Mother consoles sad son as they walk outdoors
Can I Get Rid of Child Support and Alimony if I File Bankruptcy?
Lawyer with a client
Bankruptcy Rule 2004 Exam
Couple looking distressed as they review bills together
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
U.S. Bankruptcy court
Filing Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer: Chapter 13 Issues
Bankruptcy worksheet
Overview of the Bankruptcy Statement of Financial Affairs
Just How Bad is Bankruptcy for Your Credit Score?
San Francisco California
Learn about the California 703 exemption scheme for bankruptcy cases.
Business meeting
Dismissing a Bankruptcy Case Without Discharge
Man holding empty wallet
Can Your Bankruptcy Discharge Be Denied?
Improving credit score
How to Improve Your Credit Score After Bankruptcy
Midsection of man with showing empty pockets against gray background
Can I Use My Credit Card to Pay My Bankruptcy Fees?
young couple looking at documents together at kitchen table
Reasons to File Bankruptcy Now to Get the Maximum Benefits Available
Debt-to-Equity Ratio Definition
Which Is Better: Debt Management Plan or Bankruptcy?
Gavel being held above a car
Pay the Value—Save the Car in Chapter 7.
Technology keeps them occupied
How Bankruptcy Affects Your Job
Woman working from home
How to fill out Bankruptcy Schedule C to claim exemptions
Studio shot of pencil erasing the word bankruptcy from piece of paper.
Learn More About the Bankruptcy Statement of Intention
Two men are sitting at a table and are working on a laptop. One is holding a check.
Can You Lose Your Retirement in a Bankruptcy?
What happens to property I lose in a bankruptcy case?
Worried small business owner
Nondischargeable Debt
Discharging Debts: Car, Home and Other Secured Loans
Car being towed
Removing Bankruptcy's Automatic Stay: Past Due Car and House Payments
Practical Steps You Must Take to File Medical Bankruptcy
A well-kept single family home
How to Fill Out Bankruptcy Schedule D
Daughter unwrapping gift with mom in restaurant
Surviving the Holidays After a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy Petition
Are You Avoiding Bankruptcy Due to Stigma?
Woman running from her bills
The Three Biggest Bankruptcy Fears
Judge banging gavel in court
How to Lose Your Bankruptcy Discharge

Page Sources