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Bankruptcy in the United States

Bankruptcy in the United States is a matter placed under Federal jurisdiction by the United States Constitution (in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4), which allows Congress to enact "uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States." The Congress has enacted statute law governing bankruptcy, primarily in the form of the Bankruptcy Code, located at Title 11 of the United States Code. Federal law is amplified by state law in some places where Federal law fails to speak or expressly defers to state law.

While bankruptcy cases are always filed in United States Bankruptcy Court (an adjunct to the U.S. District Courts), bankruptcy cases, particularly with respect to the validity of claims and exemptions, are often dependent upon State law. State law therefore plays a major role in many bankruptcy cases, and it is often not possible to generalize bankruptcy law across state lines.

Generally, a debtor declares bankruptcy to obtain relief from debt, and this is accomplished either through a discharge of the debt or through a restructuring of the debt. Generally, when a debtor files a voluntary petition, his or her bankruptcy case commences.

Bankruptcy Chapters in the United States

There are six types of bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code, located at Title 11 of the United States Code:

Chapter 7: basic liquidation for individuals and businesses; also known as straight bankruptcy; it is the simplest and quickest form of bankruptcy available

Chapter 9: municipal bankruptcy; a federal mechanism for the resolution of municipal debts

Chapter 11: rehabilitation or reorganization, used primarily by business debtors, but sometimes by individuals with substantial debts and assets; known as corporate bankruptcy, it is a form of corporate financial reorganization which typically allows companies to continue to function while they follow debt repayment plans

Chapter 12: rehabilitation for family farmers and fishermen;

Chapter 13: rehabilitation with a payment plan for individuals with a regular source of income; enables individuals with regular income to develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts; also known as Wage Earner Bankruptcy

Chapter 15: ancillary and other international cases; provides a mechanism for dealing with bankruptcy debtors and helps foreign debtors to clear debts.

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