Convert Your Bankruptcy Chapter?

  • Bankruptcy Chapter 13

Can You Convert Your Bankruptcy Chapter?

Filing for bankruptcy is a big decision. It is important to choose the bankruptcy chapter which can help protect most of your assets and results in the discharge of various debts. There are numerous factors involved while choosing a specific chapter to file bankruptcy. A lot of what happens to your circumstances and the time taken to discharge depends on the chapter of bankruptcy you have filed for. However, if your circumstances change, there are provisions available to switch the bankruptcy chapter. Changing bankruptcy chapter can be a complicated process.  Los Angeles based bankruptcy law firm, therefore, advised that you consult a qualified attorney to get your bankruptcy discharged and get a fresh start.

Type of bankruptcy which can be filed in California 

Chapter 7 (liquidation bankruptcy) and chapter 13 (wage earner’s plan) are the major bankruptcy types available for consumers. In the case of chapter 7, your assets will be sorted into the exempt and non-exempt property. In the state of California, two exemption systems exist which cover different amounts of properties like home, furniture, care,  etc. System 1 exempts $75,000 and $175,000 of equity in the home and $3,060 in case of a vehicle; whereas according to system 2, you can avail $26,800 in home equity and $5,350 for your car. Due to the difference in exemption amount, it is best to work with a financial advisor or bankruptcy attorney to protect most of your assets.

The exempt property is safe during the bankruptcy process while any non-exempt property you have is sold off to repay your loans. In the majority of cases, bankruptcy filers are able to get most of their property exempted and therefore don’t have to surrender any. The unsecured debts (credit card, etc.) are discharged after bankruptcy. With secured debts, you have the choice of making payments to keep the assets or surrendering the assets if you cannot afford to pay the debts. To qualify for chapter 7 bankruptcy, you need to pass the complicated means test which compares your income to the average income of a family your size. In case you fail to pass the means test, chapter 13 is the bankruptcy option available for you.

In the case of chapter 13 bankruptcy, a repayment plan is devised keeping your debts, assets and average income as well as expenses. According to this plan you are expected to make monthly payments from your disposable income to your bankruptcy trustee who then distributes it amongst your creditors for a period of 3-5 years. Any unsecured debts which remain after the repayment plan are discharged. You can continue making payments for secured debts throughout and even after the repayment plan.

The automatic stay provision is available in both chapters of bankruptcy. Thanks to it, your creditors cannot contact you to demand any payments, any foreclosure or repossession actions cease and so does wage garnishment and bank account levies. Thus you get some respite from constant creditor harassment while the court goes through the bankruptcy process.

Converting a chapter 7 bankruptcy to Chapter 13

Most debtors prefer chapter 7 if they are able to qualify for it. This is so because you get to keep almost all your assets, all your unsecured debts are discharged sooner since typically this bankruptcy takes less time than chapter 13. It, therefore, is difficult to comprehend why someone would convert from chapter 7 to chapter 13.

If you wish to keep your property, you might wish to convert. Chapter 7 allows you to keep your home if you continue making regular payments on your mortgage. Any failure to do so might result in foreclosure. Any non-exempt property you have needs to be surrendered in this bankruptcy chapter. But in the case of chapter 13, you don’t have to give up any property while making mortgage payments through the repayment plan. Thus if you wish to protect all your property, chapter 13 is a better option.

Conversion of Chapter 7 bankruptcy to chapter 13 can be done once without court approval provided that it is done in good faith. If you follow the rules and do not attempt to hide property then you won’t face any problems. Since there are no court fees involved while converting from chapter 7 to chapter 13, you are not required to pay any conversion fees. Since chapter 13 involves a repayment plan, if you do not have the income to support the repayment, your conversion won’t be permitted. In this situation, you might need to file a motion in the court.

Converting a chapter 13 bankruptcy to Chapter 7

All your disposable income is used to repay your creditors in this bankruptcy chapter. Debts like a child and spousal support need to be paid in full. All of this might take a toll on you. A change in circumstances like losing a job, prolonged illness, etc. can make your repayment plan slightly difficult to manage. Converting to chapter 7 might be a good option in this case.

If you haven’t received a chapter 7 discharge within the past 8 years, you can seek to convert your bankruptcy from chapter 13 to chapter 7. If you have, bad luck! You are stuck with chapter 13. Since chapter 7 requires you qualifying the means test, you can convert your bankruptcy chapter only if you earn less than the state’s mean income. If nothing works for you, you remain stuck with chapter 13. The only recourse available is to ask for a dismissal of your case, which has serious consequences like losing the automatic stay benefit. What’s more is that if you ever file for bankruptcy again, the automatic stay benefit might not be readily available for you. You will be handling your creditors on your own without the help of any bankruptcy court. Conversion from chapter 13 to chapter 7 has a conversion fees of $25 which has to be deposited when you file for a motion in the court.

Should I convert my bankruptcy chapter?

Sometimes the court might force you to convert your bankruptcy chapter from 13 to 7. This can happen if you don’t get your payment plan approved or miss making payments on it. Any unnecessary delay in the case which can harm your creditors can also be the reason for the conversion of your bankruptcy chapter. If a discrepancy is observed in your means test and it is found that you don’t qualify for chapter 7 bankruptcy, then your bankruptcy chapter will be converted.

Since the conversion of the chapter is a complicated process involving a number of motions, forms, and schedules, it is important if the process is handled by competent bankruptcy attorneys. Discuss with your attorney whether conversion of bankruptcy chapter might be beneficial for you. You can call 888-297-6203 for a consult regarding your bankruptcy case.