Or will it automatically be repossessed once I file with the court?
Divorce / Separation Lawyer
You can voluntarily surrender it or wait for the lender to recover it. How long will it be? That's up to the lender who has to file a motion with the court to lift the automatic stay to allow it to recover the car and auction it off. It could be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on how quickly the lender acts. The lender cannot just come and get the car once you file for bankruptcy protection. If they do, they are violating the automatic stay which may entitle you to damages and/or attorney fees to enforce it.
If you indicate on the Statement of Intentions that you want to surrender the car, then the stay will automatically terminate 30 days after the meeting of creditors. Usually, a creditor will either file for relief from the stay or wait until discharge. Even then, not all creditors will repossess the car if the payments are current and the vehicle is insured.
[I am a Virginia-licensed attorney. This communication is intended as general information and not specific legal advice, and this communication does not create an attorney-client relationship.]
Filing the bankruptcy will actually delay the repossession by about two plus months. The creditor is not allowed to accept or dispose of the property after you file the bankruptcy until the automatic stay is lifted. Lenders usually accomplish this by a motion on notice to all other creditors. I have had clients try and surrender vehicle while the stay was in effect and the banks attorney calls me and tells me to have them come back and get the car. Good luck.
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Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted in the States of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts only and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to those three States. This advice is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation. Facts and laws change and these possible changes will affect the advice provided here. Consult an attorney in your locale before you act on any of this advice. You should not rely on this advice alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney client relationship. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author only and the fact that he has worked as an Assistant District Attorney; State Supreme Court Clerk; Special Assistant United States Attorney (Hawaii); Assistant Cornell University Counsel or Judge Advocate, United States Marine Corps should not be relied upon to assume that these statements reflect the policy of these organizations.