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". Congress has enacted statutes governing bankruptcy, primarily in the form of the Bankruptcy Code, located at Title 11 of the United States Code.
In Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the debtor retains ownership and control of assets and is re-termed a debtor in possession (DIP). The debtor in possession runs the day-to-day operations of the business while creditors and the debtor work with the Bankruptcy Court in order to negotiate and complete a plan. Upon meeting certain requirements (e.g., fairness among creditors, priority of certain creditors) creditors are permitted to vote on the proposed plan. If a plan is confirmed, the debtor continues to operate and pay debts under the terms of the confirmed plan. If a specified majority of creditors do not vote to confirm a plan, additional requirements may be imposed by the court in order to confirm the plan. Debtors filing for Chapter 11 protection a second time are known informally as "Chapter 22" filers.
Also, all Chapter 7 cases require you to fill out extensive bankruptcy forms, research exemption laws (to protect property), and follow all local court rules and procedures. If you aren’t comfortable doing the work—and assuming the risk—consult with a bankruptcy lawyer. If you’d like to file on your own, consider using a good bankruptcy self-help book.
Generally, I start with an initial telephone consultation. Then if you want to move forward, we schedule an in-person conference at my office to go over the legal services agreement and your documents and for you to make the first payment. After that I represent you against your creditors until you are paid in full and then about two weeks after that I file your case.
A Bankruptcy Trustee (in most cases, the Official Receiver) is appointed to deal with all matters regarding the administration of the bankrupt estate. The Trustee's job includes notifying creditors of the estate and dealing with creditor inquiries; ensuring that the bankrupt complies with their obligations under the Bankruptcy Act; investigating the bankrupt's financial affairs; realising funds to which the estate is entitled under the Bankruptcy Act and distributing dividends to creditors if sufficient funds become available.
When the debtor completes payments pursuant to the terms of the plan, the court formally grant the debtor a discharge of the debts provided for in the plan. However, if the debtor fails to make the agreed upon payments or fails to seek or gain court approval of a modified plan, a bankruptcy court will normally dismiss the case on the motion of the trustee. After a dismissal, creditors may resume pursuit of state law remedies to recover the unpaid debt.