How long, exactly?
Bankruptcy was initially created to help creditors not debtors. In fact, in these early cases, debtors were subject to incarceration for failing to pay their debts. This came to be known as “debtor’s prison.”
The first bankruptcy act enacted by the United States congress was in 1800, though it was only for involuntary proceedings.
From the 1800’s through a variety of incarnations to the bankruptcy code, the various forms of relief were broadened to include help for consumers as well as businesses.
In October of 2005, sweeping changes were made to the bankruptcy code, designed to (at least in part) hamper the ability of consumers to get chapter 7 (“fresh start”) bankruptcy relief. Consumers would be required to pass an income-eligibility test (commonly known as the “means test”) and would have to comply with certain educational requirements, before being permitted to go bankrupt.