This is the question that I get asked the most at consultations. The answer I usually give is “it depends on you”. The legal process itself, meaning from filing date to closing of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, usually takes about 4 months. When the case is filed, the court will issue a Notice of Filing to all parties you have listed on your bankruptcy petition. That Notice has very important dates. The first date you will probably see is your meeting of creditors date. That date is usually about 30 to 45 days after the case is filed and you are required to attend that meeting.
Another important date, which is the good guide for how long it will take to finish your case, is the Deadline to File a Complaint to Determine Dischargeability of Certain Debts. The day after this date is the earliest date the Court will issue your discharge, keeping in mind that your case will not officially be closed until the Trustee files with the Court a Final Decree, letting the Court know that all the assets of the bankruptcy estate have been administered.
You may be wondering why I then tell people that it depends on them how long the case takes. The reason is that your case can’t be filed until you give us all the required information it takes for us to prepare the petition. This usually includes things like your car titles, pay stubs, tax returns, mortgages, etc. We have no way of obtaining most of these things and without them we usually can’t file your case. The length of time it takes individuals to gather this information is sometimes longer than the actual legal process itself. You also have to account for at least a week to process your documents and get you back into the office to sign your paperwork. So whether it takes you a week, a month or a year to gather your documents and bring them into the office, your bankruptcy case, generally speaking, will take about 4 additional months from when you sign and we file your bankruptcy petition.