Bankruptcy law refers to the federal system of statutes, rules, policies, and codes governing the bankruptcy procedures for debtors, creditors, individuals, and entities.

When a debtor is unable to pay its creditor, bankruptcy law allows the debtor to develop a plan to resolve its debts through the division of its assets among its creditors, in accordance with US Bankruptcy law.

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 empowers Congress to enact “uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States”. The Congress has enacted statutes governing bankruptcy, primarily in the form of the Bankruptcy Code, located at Title 11 of the United States Code.

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.

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.