People who have incurred overwhelming debt can file Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 allows debtors to come up with a plan to make one monthly payment to the court that will reduce or completely pay off debt within a three- to five-year period. Chapter 7 requires filers to turn assets over to the court for distribution to creditors. In both types of bankruptcy, the court discharges any remaining debt once the case is complete. If you cannot afford a bankruptcy lawyer, you can file pro se (without a lawyer). Filing bankruptcy pro se is a rigorous task requiring thorough knowledge of federal bankruptcy laws and local bankruptcy jurisdiction rules.