Most Chapter 13 plans must be three to five years long. The length of your repayment plan will depend on your income and how much time you need to pay your required plan amount.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows debtors to reorganize their debts, catch up on missed mortgage or car loan payments, and pay off other obligations through a repayment plan. Here's an easy way to determine the length of your plan: If you'd qualify to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy but choose to file for Chapter 13, your plan length will be three years—although you can pay into a five-year plan if you need more time. If you don't qualify for Chapter 7, your repayment plan commitment period will be five years.
If you're not sure about the differences between the two chapters, start by learning how to choose between Chapter 7 and 13.
As part of your bankruptcy paperwork, you must complete Form 122C – Chapter 13 Statement of Current Monthly Income and Calculation of Commitment Period. On Form 122C, you state your average monthly income for the six months before filing your case, double it, and compare it against the yearly median income in your state for the same size household.
If your income falls below the state median, you can propose a three-year repayment plan. But if your income is above the median, you typically must be in a five-year plan. Whether your income is higher or lower than the state median, your plan can't exceed five years in length.
The Chapter 13 payment calculator provides general estimates of the monthly plan payment.
If you are a below-median income debtor who qualifies for a three-year repayment period, chances are you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy to catch up on an obligation that you can't eliminate in Chapter 7 bankruptcy—such as missed mortgage payments or other priority debt that the debtor must pay back in full. It's also not uncommon for a debtor not to have enough income to make the monthly payment. In that case, most courts will allow the debtor to submit a longer plan.
Proposing a five-year plan can help you stretch your payments over a more extended period and reduce your monthly plan payment amount. For instance, suppose a debtor must pay $30,000 in support arrears in full through the plan. The monthly payment would be $833 over three years, but only $500 over five years (plus fees). Find out which obligations you'll pay back in your plan and which debts get canceled in a Chapter 13 case.
While most repayment plans must last at least three or five years, you can propose a shorter plan if it pays off all of your unsecured debts (such as credit cards and medical bills) in full. This plan is commonly known as a "100% plan" because you pay everything you owe except for long-term debts, such as mortgages or student loans.