Your Bankruptcy Discharge Date

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Written by the Upsolve Team.  Reviewed by Andrea Wimmer, Esq.
Updated June 11, 2020

Summary

Obtaining a bankruptcy discharge is the primary goal of every individual who files bankruptcy. The discharge date is the most important date in a personal bankruptcy, second only to the date the case was initially filed. Let’s take a look at 4 things you should know about your bankruptcy discharge, when your discharge will be granted by the bankruptcy court, and how to figure out the date of your discharge even if you can’t find your paperwork anymore.

Obtaining a bankruptcy discharge is the primary goal of every individual who files bankruptcy. The discharge date is the most important date in a personal bankruptcy, second only to the date the case was initially filed. Let’s take a look at 4 things you should know about your bankruptcy discharge, when your discharge will be granted by the bankruptcy court, and how to figure out the date of your discharge even if you can’t find your paperwork anymore.

4 Things You Should Know About Your Bankruptcy Discharge

A bankruptcy discharge is a United States bankruptcy court order that legally ends the bankruptcy filer’s responsibility to pay the discharged debt. It is proof for creditors you no longer owe the discharged debt. This order is your first sign that debt relief has arrived!

  • One:  The United States bankruptcy court order for the discharge is entered automatically, but only if your paperwork is filed and you attended your Meeting of Creditors (341 meeting) and completed the required financial management class. 

  • Two:  Not all types of debt can be discharged in a bankruptcy case. The Bankruptcy Code lists exceptions to discharge in Title 11 Section 523. At the beginning of your bankruptcy case, you listed all your creditors, but it’s possible not all of your debt from those creditors was discharged. As you may know, alimony, child support, most student loans, certain personal liabilities from court actions, and income tax debt from the last three years won’t get discharged in bankruptcy. These types of debts are non-dischargeable and you’ll still owe the debt. You may have listed real estate from a secured creditor on your Schedule A/B bankruptcy form but you still owe on the mortgage. At the end of the case, all creditors, discharged or not, will get a copy of the order. A copy of the order of discharge will also be sent to you, your bankruptcy lawyer (if you have one), the U.S. trustee, and the bankruptcy trustee that handled your case. 

  • Three:  Your discharge order from bankruptcy is the golden ticket to your fresh start! It’s a permanent barrier between you and the discharged creditors. Those credit card charges, car loan charge-offs, medical bills, and other past-due bills from unsecured debt and collection actions are no longer owed. Creditors can get in trouble for trying to collect a discharged debt. Your discharged debt will be swept away, and you can start taking steps to rebuild your  credit score as soon as the discharge is entered. 

  • Four:  Your order of discharge terminates the automatic stay. You may recall that the automatic stay put a stop to collection activity when you filed your bankruptcy petition. With the order of discharge, creditors are still blocked from collection activity on your discharged debt, but activity will begin on secured debt that wasn’t discharged. For instance, let’s say you have a house that was used as collateral for a mortgage. You were behind on your mortgage when your case was filed and indicated an intention to surrender the property.  Even though your personal liability on the mortgage has been discharged, the bank can (and will) still move forward with a foreclosure action. They can’t try to collect a deficiency balance from you after the foreclosure, but they can take the house because the Chapter 7 bankruptcy did not eliminate their lien

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What’s the Earliest Date I Can Get My Chapter 7 Discharge?

The earliest date you can get your Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge depends on the date of the Meeting of Creditors (341 meeting), whether there are any objections, and whether a reaffirmation hearing was requested. Bankruptcy laws give time for creditors, bankruptcy trustees, and U.S. trustees to object. If there are no objections and a reaffirmation hearing is not needed, the earliest date you can get your Chapter 7 discharge is after the deadline for objections expired. The deadline for creditor and trustee objections is 60 days from the first scheduled 341 meeting. 

The official date the discharge order will be entered will also depend on the day of the week, holidays, and the court’s caseload. You could get your discharge the day after the objection deadline expires. Bankruptcy records show discharge filing dates are around four months after filing a bankruptcy petition. If you have a reaffirmation hearing scheduled after the deadline for objections, the earliest you can get your bankruptcy discharge is after the court makes a ruling on the reaffirmation. 

It might be a nerve-wracking 60 days waiting for objections, but objections are usually for fraud, such as concealing property or taking out handfuls of cash advances just before a new bankruptcy filing and they are rare in the typical personal bankruptcy case. If a creditor objects to having their claim discharged, an adversary proceeding will take place. However, as long as the creditor is not alleging that you’re not entitled to a discharge at all, this should not affect the timing of your discharge.

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What’s the Earliest Date I Can Get My Chapter 13 Discharge?

The earliest date you can get your discharge in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will depend on how long it takes for you to complete the last few of  your legally required steps. To get a discharge in your bankruptcy case under a Chapter 13 plan, you must complete your repayment plan, take a financial management class, and submit certain Chapter 13 specific certifications to the bankruptcy trustees. 

Chapters 7 and 13 bankruptcies have many differences, but both give creditors 60 days to file an objection from the date of the first scheduled 341 meeting. Since a Chapter 13 discharge can’t be granted until all of the payments have been made, it takes 3-5 years from the date the Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition is filed to get a Chapter 13 discharge.

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How Do I Find Out the Official Date of My Discharge Order? 

Your order of discharge will have a date on the form that is the official date of discharge. When you receive your bankruptcy order, keep it in a secure place. If you have a paper copy, you could store it with your other documents that have important dates, like your bankruptcy petition, car insurance, retirement plan, and mortgage documents. If you have a digital copy, make sure access is secure. You may be asked to present a copy of the order while you’re trying to reestablish your credit, or in other circumstances where a credit check is required. If you file bankruptcy in the future, you’ll need to know the date you filed the petition for your more recent bankruptcy. 

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What If I Need My Discharge Date But I Don’t Have My Paperwork Anymore? 

If you had a bankruptcy discharge but you can’t find your court order, you can look up your case and case number on PACER. PACER is a government website that has records from bankruptcy courts, district courts, and appellate courts in the United States. The word PACER stands for Public Access to Court Electronic Records. PACER is free if you spend under $30 a quarter. The charge is .10 per page you view. A discharge order is usually only two pages. You can sign up as a non-attorney and then search for your case to view your record. You can search bankruptcy records by your social security number, but only your last four digits are displayed. 

If you’re not comfortable with filling out forms online and making queries, you can call the court that handled your bankruptcy. A limited number of courts have voice access to case information, and PACER has a list for you. It would help to have your case number. You can find the number on an old bankruptcy document if you don’t want to go online. Some clerks can give the date of discharge over the phone. A paper copy of your discharge could cost a few dollars. A certified copy of your bankruptcy order for discharge will be more expensive. 

Your discharge date doesn’t affect the date your bankruptcy is removed from your credit report, that will depend on what chapter you filed, when you filed your petition, and on the details of each account that was discharged. The bankruptcy courts do not report data to the credit reporting agencies, credit reporting agencies get their information from public records and other sources. Your discharge date may be on your credit report, but it’s not mandatory. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy must be removed 10 years from the date you filed the petition, not the discharge date.

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Are You Interested in Filing Bankruptcy?

If you haven’t filed bankruptcy yet and you’d like to get your debt discharged, you can consult a bankruptcy attorney for legal advice or ask a local legal aid office for assistance. You can even file bankruptcy pro se with Upsolve’s web app to help you reach your goal of obtaining a bankruptcy discharge order for your own fresh start.

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About the authors

Andrea Wimmer, Esq.

Andrea practiced exclusively as debtors’ counsel in consumer chapter 7 and 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team full time in August 2019. While in private practice, Andrea handled all ban... read more

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