Massachusetts residents who are in significant debt spend a lot of time looking at their debt relief options. The problem is there are a lot of options out there, but only so many actually produce positive results. Consumer bankruptcy is something many people want to avoid, but at the end of the day, it can help. There are two types of personal bankruptcy for which one might qualify. This week, this column will focus on Chapter 13 relief.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is for people who have disposable income and can pay back some of their debts, but they need a little help. Rather than liquidating assets to pay creditors, a Chapter 13 plan, if approved, results in the creation of an affordable repayment plan — giving the petitioner three to five years to pay back what is owed to his or her creditors. When the bankruptcy period is up, some remaining debts may be discharged.

There is a lot involved when pursuing Chapter 13 relief. One must file the appropriate petition that includes information about all debts owed as well as a proposed plan for how to pay back one’s creditors. One may also need to take debt management courses before the case goes to court.

Once filed, creditors will have the opportunity to object to the proposed repayment plan. Different terms may be negotiated. At the end of the day, the judge presiding over one’s case will get to decide whether to approve or reject one’s payment schedule and bankruptcy petition.

When filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, one needs to have the petition in order and a solid plan in place before submitting any documents in court. A lack of information or misinformation can result in petition denial. Massachusetts residents who would like help pursuing this type of bankruptcy can turn to an experienced attorney who will be able to prepare the filing and offer guidance and representation throughout the legal proceedings.