Although the bankruptcy discharge papers may not look like much (see the bottom of this page for an example), just about anyone who files a petition can attest to the relief that they feel when they open their mailbox to find it inside.
Bankruptcy Discharge Benefits
So, exactly why is this piece of paper so important?
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge legally releases the person who files bankruptcy from paying certain debts. However, it is important to note that all debts are NOT discharged in a bankruptcy proceeding.
It also prohibits creditors from trying to collect discharged debts. That’s right – no telephone calls, no collection letters, no garnishments. When a debt is discharged in bankruptcy, it’s history! Well, almost history – the fact that a petition was filed will hang around on a person’s credit report for several years.
Discharged Bankruptcy Timeline
How long does it take after a person files Chapter 7 before the much-anticipated discharge is received? Generally speaking, it’s for about four months. However, there are circumstances that may delay receipt.
After receiving the bankruptcy discharge papers, it’s important to put them in a safe place. It’s also a good idea to make a few copies. Copies may be needed when trying to fix any errors or omissions on a credit report, as well as proof for any creditors that try to pursue a discharged debt.
If you do happen to misplace it, don’t sweat it! It is possible to get another copy from the Court if the original is lost. If you find yourself in this boat, please be sure to read the related page regarding how to get a replacement bankruptcy discharge copy.
It’s important to keep your bankruptcy discharge copy (or copies) in a safe place. However, life happens – and at some point in time, you may find that you need this document, but for one reason or another, you can’t find it.
How to Get a Copy of Your Bankruptcy Discharge
Luckily, there are several ways you can go about replacing your copy of your official bankruptcy discharge. Following are three different methods you can use to obtain one:
1. Call the attorney who handled your case.
Many attorneys keep client files for several years before purging them. There is a good chance that your lawyer will still have a copy in his or her file. If not, he or she may be able to access the Court’s records electronically to print the requested document.
If you are concerned about the document retrieval fees that your attorney may charge for this service, ask first! There’s a good chance that he or she will provide this service at no charge. However, to avoid any unwelcome surprises, it is a good idea to find out in advance what fees will be charged. If it is more than you are willing to pay, explore your other options (see below) for getting a copy of the bankruptcy discharge.
2. Request it from the Bankruptcy Clerk’s Office.
You can also request a bankruptcy discharge copy from the Clerk’s office located in the district and division where the bankruptcy case was filed. The bankruptcy clerk will charge a small fee for this service. If the case has been closed for some time, there may be an additional retrieval fee for the Clerk to access their archived files.
You can locate the contact information for your Clerk’s office using the state links on the right side of this page.
3. Open a PACER account.
Do you know if your case was electronically filed with the bankruptcy court? If you filed bankruptcy within the past few years, there is a good chance that it was, and for cases that are electronically filed, many of the documents in the case are stored online in the Court’s PACER system.
If you are comfortable working with computers, you can set up a PACER account from the comfort of your home office, and download a bankruptcy discharge copy for a small fee (currently $0.08 per page).