The discharge date in a bankruptcy case is the date on which the court declares that you are no longer obligated to pay the debts included in your bankruptcy, thus closing your case. However, the exact meaning of a discharge and the discharge date vary depending on the type of bankruptcy for which you file.
The Discharge Notice
When the court absolves you of all obligations to pay applicable debts, it will send a notice to you, your attorney and your creditors. This is the discharge notice, and the court sends it on your discharge date. The discharge notice enumerates the debts that the court has eliminated through liquidation or repayment and explains that the creditors of these debts are prohibited from starting or continuing any collection actions against you. The exact point at which the court sends this discharge notice varies depending on the type of bankruptcy. Receiving the notice for a Chapter 13 filing always takes much longer than receiving the notice for a Chapter 7 filing.
Chapter 7 Discharge
In a Chapter 7 filing, receiving a discharge means a liquidation of your debts. This means that all debts discharged under Chapter 7 are erased from your records and you do not have to pay them. Creditors can no longer demand payment. A discharge under Chapter 7 occurs after a 341 meeting, which is a meeting with all of your creditors in which they can appeal your case and ask you questions concerning your financial situations. This meeting takes place around 60 days after you file your petition. The discharge date is about 60 days after this meeting.
Chapter 13 Discharge
Discharge in a Chapter 13 case is different from discharge in a Chapter 7 case. When you file for Chapter 13, the court does not liquidate your debts. Instead, it helps you pay your debts through a low-interest repayment plan. The specifics of this repayment plan -- including the time frame -- depend upon your income level. People with income higher than the state average have five years in which to make payments, while people with lower-than-average income have three years. At the end of this period, you receive the discharge for the debts you were able to pay in full.
Keep in mind that the discharge date only applies to debts that can be discharged under bankruptcy. Some debts are nondischargeable debts, and even after the discharge, you are still required to pay them. If you do not pay your debts, your creditors can start collection actions against you. Some examples of nondischargeable debts are student loans, some taxes you owe, alimony and child support.