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What Determines the Length of a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?



A chapter 13 bankruptcy, or “wage-earner’s” bankruptcy, lasts between 3 and 5 years.  But what determines this length? Several factors consider the length of a chapter 13 bankruptcy.  This article addresses some of the most prominent factors.

1.  Applicable Commitment Period:  The applicable commitment period is either 3 years or 5 years for a chapter 13 bankruptcy, based on whether the consumer is above-median income or below-median income.  If the consumer is below median-income, the commitment period will be a minimum of 3 years; if the consumer is above-median income, the commitment period will automatically be 5 years.  What is median-income and how do you determine this number?  Median-income is based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s calculation for each state and updates every 6 months; theoretically, half of households are below this dollar number in income, and half the households are above.  To determine if you are above or below median-income, you must look at both your household size and income.

Currently, the breakdown for median-income and household size follows:

Oregon:   Household of 1: $44,779; Household of 2: $55,568; Household of 3: $60,693; Household of 4: $70,812.  For each member of the household above 4, and additional $8,100 must be added.

Therefore, if you have a household of 2 (Husband and Wife with no kids), the median-income is $55,568.  If your household income is $40,000, then your applicable commitment period in a chapter 13 bankruptcy is 3 years; if you make $95,000, then your applicable commitment period is 5 years.

Household income is based on the prior six months of income multiplied by 2 for an annualized income.

2.  Below Median-Income with Three Year Commitment Period with Extenuating Circumstances:  If you are a below median-income consumer and qualify for a 3-year commitment period for a chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may want to extend the 3 years to up to 5 years, depending on your circumstances.  For example, if you filed a chapter 13 to stop a foreclosure and you are in arrears by $20,000 on the mortgage, if you agreed on a 3 year chapter 13 bankruptcy, the average payment on the mortgage arrears amounts to $556 per month.  However, even though your minimum applicable commitment period is 3 years, you can extend the bankruptcy out to 5 years to render a lower monthly payment to catch up on the arrears, or $20,000/5 years = $334 per month.

Above are some of the main factors that help determine the length of a chapter 13 plan.  Below median-income households must be in the chapter 13 bankruptcy for 3 years but can extend this period out to 5 years; and above-median income households must automatically be in the plan for 5 years.

If you are interested in learning more about chapter 13 bankruptcy, please call for a free in-office bankruptcy consultation.

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Tom Butcher, Attorney At Law

Tom Butcher is the owner and attorney at Butcher Law Office, LLC. He represents clients in financial distress in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. Tom offers a friendly, respectful, and compassionate experience for clients who are in financial and legal distress. Rather than taking a mechanical approach to filing bankruptcy for clients, like other bankruptcy firms, Tom strives to offer a personal, one-on-one experience, where the client’s situation is of utmost importance. Tom believes this personal attention keeps him connected to the community, and serves his clients best during their bankruptcy.
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