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A complex process: Converting Chapter 13 to Chapter 7

Once an individual facing serious financial difficulties makes the important decision to seek the protection provided by personal bankruptcy, he or she will immediately be confronted by another important decision. Specifically, they'll need to decide whether their fresh financial start will come courtesy of Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

If they are able to pursue the former, they will be granted a discharge after a trustee liquidates some of their non-exempt assets and divides the proceeds among their creditors. If they pursue the latter, they will be granted a discharge after completing a three- to five-year repayment plan in which their disposable income is divided by the trustee among their creditors.

One question that bankruptcy filers sometimes have is whether it's possible to convert their bankruptcy filing from a Chapter 13 case to a Chapter 7 case. The answer is conversion is indeed a possibility -- but that this conversion may be voluntary or involuntary.

Voluntary conversion

A person can decide to convert their filing from a Chapter 13 case to a Chapter 7 case at virtually any point in the process. As for some of the reasons why people choose to take this step, it can range from no longer wanting to hang onto certain property or a real world change (job loss, illness, etc.) making it impossible to continue with payments.

It's important to understand, however, that conversion might not be possible. For instance, if the person has previously received a Chapter 7 discharge within a designated timeframe or cannot pass the means test, they might not be able to secure the desired relief.

Forced conversion

The bankruptcy court may force a person to convert their filing from a Chapter 13 case to a Chapter 7 if he or she does just some of the following:

  • Fails to make timely payments
  • Fails to file a repayment plan in a timely manner
  • Fails to meet domestic support obligations
  • Fails to pay applicable fees and charges

What all of this underscores is that conversion of a Chapter 13 filing to a Chapter 7 filing can prove to be a complex matter. As such, those in this position should seriously consider consulting with an experienced legal professional.   

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