A chapter 13 bankruptcy is also called a wage earner’s plan. It enables individuals or married couples with regular income to develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts. Under Chapter 13, debtors propose a repayment plan to make installments to creditors over three to five years. If the debtor’s current monthly income is less than the applicable state median, the plan will be for three years unless the court approves a longer period “for cause.” If the debtor’s current monthly income is greater than the applicable state median, the plan generally must be for five years. In no case may a plan provide for payments over a period longer than five years. During this time the “automatic stay” is in place and the law forbids creditors from starting or continuing collection efforts.
Chapter 13 offers individuals a number of advantages over liquidation under chapter 7. Perhaps most significantly, chapter 13 offers individuals an opportunity to save their homes from foreclosure. By filing under this chapter, individuals can stop foreclosure proceedings and may cure delinquent mortgage payments over time. Nevertheless, they must still make all mortgage payments that come due during the chapter 13 plan on time. Another advantage of chapter 13 is that it allows individuals to reschedule secured debts (other than a mortgage for their primary residence) and extend them over the life of the chapter 13 plan. Doing this may lower the payments. Chapter 13 also has a special provision that protects third parties who are liable with the debtor on “consumer debts.” This provision may protect co-signers. Finally, chapter 13 acts like a consolidation loan under which the individual makes the plan payments to a chapter 13 trustee who then distributes payments to creditors. Individuals will have no direct contact with creditors while under chapter 13 protection.
After the plan payments are completed in three to five years, then all of the remaining unsecured debt is discharged the same way as in a Chapter 7.
As of April 1, 2016, if your secured debts (mortgages and liens) add up to more that $1,184,200.00, or your unsecured debts add up to more than $394,725.00, Chapter 13 may not be available to you.