Bankruptcy is often the last resort for people in dire financial straits. The law allows you to file for relief from your creditors, either through a restructuring of the debt you owe or by erasing the debt entirely. There are several versions of personal bankruptcy, including Chapter 13, which gives debtors with income the opportunity to repay their creditors over the course of three to five years while under bankruptcy court’s protection. Most people, however, choose to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to have unsecured debt, such as credit cards and installment loan payments, discharged.


Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be a fresh financial start to people burdened by monthly payments that cut into their living expenses. There’s a heavy price to pay for this because bankruptcy negatively affects your creditworthiness for years and can disrupt your future financial plans, including buying a car and taking out a mortgage. Here are some things you need to know before seeking the services of Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers in Charleston, IL.

Debt Counseling

A bankruptcy filing can be one of the most difficult decisions you’ll make. You aren’t required to have an attorney to file for Chapter 7, but you would be better off with the services of a bankruptcy lawyer to get you through the legal process.


Your first step in the Chapter 7 process is to complete a mandatory credit counseling course conducted by an agency approved by the jurisdiction of your bankruptcy filing. You can go online to find a credit counseling agency, which will charge you a fee for its services. The credit counseling agency reviews your income and expenses against what you owe your creditors and helps you determine whether you should follow through with a Chapter 7 filing or create a repayment plan. In most cases, the credit counseling agency will reach the same conclusion that you did, that your debt exceeds your ability to pay, and that you have no other option for dealing with the debt other than Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Stopping the Clock

You’ll have 180 days after completing your credit counseling course to file your official bankruptcy forms. You’ll also have to submit a copy of your most recent tax return and any other requested documents.


Once you officially file for Chapter 7, the clock stops on the collection of your debts. Wage garnishments, foreclosure, eviction, and other punitive actions are put temporarily on hold. The court takes legal possession of your property and assigns a trustee to your case to oversee your bankruptcy. One of the trustee’s tasks is to arrange a meeting between you and your creditors.

Creditors’ Meeting

The creditors’ meeting, known as a 341 hearing, is usually the only personal appearance you’ll have to make. Expect to meet with the bankruptcy trustee and your creditors, if they show up. You’ll be required to show proof of your identity, answer questions under oath about your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, and verify the accuracy of the paperwork you’ve filed.

After the Discharge

Not all liabilities can be forgiven, such as court-ordered child support, secured debt, alimony, and student loan debt. Creditors could object to your petition to discharge your listed debt but seldom do. A discharge may be granted as early as 60 days after the creditors’ meeting. You would be no longer be legally required to pay them.


There are consequences to Chapter 7 relief. The most common is damage to your credit. A bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for 7 to 10 years, and lenders can deny you credit or offer higher interest rates and less favorable terms if they do extend it to you. It’s the price you’d have to pay for a fresh start to rebuild your finances.

Get Legal Advice

When it’s time for you to seek the legal services of a family law specialist in Charleston, IL, that has experience in personal bankruptcy cases, call the Law Offices of Winter-Black & Baker at 217-235-3400 right away for a consultation.