Can I Extend My Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Beyond Five Years to Pay a Claim?

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Bankruptcy expert Leon Bayer answers real-life questions.

Dear Leon, 

I have been in Chapter 13 bankruptcy for five years and just made my last plan payment. But the trustee now says I have to pay an additional $8,000 before I am done with my bankruptcy and can get a discharge. The trustee has filed a motion to dismiss my case. 

I have talked to several bankruptcy lawyers, and they all agree that the trustee is correct – I do in fact have to pay the additional $8,000 into my Chapter 13 plan. 

I don’t have the money right now and my five year plan is over. I’m worried that if the trustee dismisses my case, the unpaid interest on my credit cards will become due. But I don’t have the money to make the $8,000 payment. 

Can I extend my case beyond the five years in order to spread this payment out over time?  I have a hearing next month on the trustee’s motion to dismiss. 

Sincerely,

Grace 

Dear Grace,

Unfortunately you are not allowed to extend your Chapter 13 payment plan beyond five years (60 months). (Learn more about the Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan and how long it can last.) If the trustee dismisses your case, you’ll owe the $8,000 plus interest on all the debt you paid through your plan over the past five years. This could be a lot of money.

Another Way Around the Five Year Plan Limit

But you might be able to get extra time to pay a different way. Hire a lawyer and have that lawyer file an opposition to the trustee’s motion to dismiss.

In the opposition, explain what happened, tell the court that you need six more months to pay off the $8,000, and ask the court to continue the hearing on this matter, giving you time to finish the job. After filing the motion, your lawyer should ask the Chapter 13 trustee if he or she will agree to continue the hearing. I think any decent trustee will agree, probably giving you a series of continuances over the next six months so you can pay as promised.

Why This Might Work

While you can’t officially modify your plan to extend it to 66 months, there is nothing in the law preventing the trustee from accepting your voluntary payments, even after your plan is over.

If the trustee will not agree, then make your argument to the judge. I think there is a good chance the judge will agree to the proposal if you have had a good Chapter 13 payment record up to now.

Good luck.

Leon Bayer is a Los Angeles bankruptcy attorney.  He is a partner at Bayer, Wishman & Leotta, a California law firm specializing in bankruptcy.  The opinions and advice in this blog post are from Mr. Bayer alone, and should not be attributed to Nolo.  By answering a question on this blog, Mr. Bayer does not become your lawyer.

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