Many who are considering Chapter 7 bankruptcy want to know how the process will go over the coming months, and how long it will take. In many cases, you can expect to get your Order of Discharge within 4-6 months from the date your action is filed in the federal bankruptcy court.
Your case begins on the day you file it with the court and you get your case number. This is the day that the automatic stay (temporary injunction) goes into effect. It prevents your creditors from contacting you or harassing you for payment.
In approximately one month, you attend the 341 meeting of creditors with your attorney which is held before the court appointed Chapter 7 trustee. In almost all cases your creditors will not even show up. You must bring your social security card (or a W-2, NOT a tax return) and a photo ID.
After the 341 meeting you have 45 days to complete a Financial Management Course, get the certificate AND file it with the court. Because it can take 2 hours to complete the course and a few days to get your certificate, it would be very unwise to leave this final act on your (the Debtor's) part to the last week. Most responsible attorneys will start pestering their clients for it at least 2 weeks before it is due. Mess up this step and your case will be DISMISSED. No discharge of debts. Nada.
The Order of Discharge comes after the certificate is filed, and is usually 4 months or so after your date of filing.
If you are considering bankruptcy, do your homework. Find an attorney who is experienced in bankruptcy, has years of law practice under his/her belt, has no record of discipline, and operates out of a real office and not a "virtual" or rent-by-the-day/hour office. To check out whether your attorney has a record of discipline go to your state bar's website.