When deciding whether to file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, many debtors wonder if they will have to appear in court during the process. Some let the thought of appearing in court deter them from filing a bankruptcy case; however, bankruptcy filings are a bit different than other types of law. While you do need to appear in court one time post-filing, that is typically the only time you will need to appear in court. Below is a list of questions that our clients typically ask regarding court, and helpful answers to assist you.
Do I have to appear in front of a Judge for my bankruptcy?
No, you do not need to appear in front of a judge for your bankruptcy. A Judge does oversee the bankruptcy process; however, you are not required to appear in front of him or her. Depending on your specific case, your attorney may need to appear in front of the Judge for certain motions or objections that may arise, but those are hearings you would not need to attend personally. Your attorney would inform you of what you need to provide or do, if anything, and then take it from there.
Do I have to go to court at all for my bankruptcy?
Yes, you do have to go to court at least once after your case is filed. About one month after your bankruptcy petition is filed with the Bankruptcy Court, you are required to appear in front of a trustee who has been assigned to your case. This appearance is referred to as the “meeting of creditors”, or “341 Meeting”.
What happens at the meeting of creditors?
The meeting of creditors is required under 11 USC §341 of the United States Code. This meeting is required in order to receive your discharge under both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. This meeting is not optional; If you do not attend this meeting, your case will be dismissed and closed without a discharge. (*There are exceptions to needing to appear including incarceration and serious health issues. Permission from the court to not appear is required in these types of circumstances)
At the meeting of creditors, the trustee will ask you questions about your bankruptcy petition while you are sworn under oath. There are some questions that the trustee is required to ask you, and other questions that are asked depending on what you have listed on your petition, schedules, statements, and related documents. Generally, the questions are aimed toward verifying information you have listed. Example questions include: Are all of your creditors listed? Is your income still the same at it was on the date the petition was filed?, etc. This meeting typically takes only five to ten minutes, and is over with very quickly. Your attorney will be present with you at the meeting to help assist you with answering any questions you may become confused about as well.
If you were honest while assisting your attorney with preparing your petition (ie- you did not withhold information about certain assets), and you reviewed your petition for accuracy before it was filled with the court, you will have nothing to worry about at this meeting.
Are my creditors going to show up and tell me that I have to pay them back?
The answer to this question depends on your case. Creditors can appear at your meeting of creditors; however, they typically do not take the time to do so. Even if some of your creditors do show up, they cannot come up to you and tell you to pay them back. Their appearance at the Meeting of Creditors is permitted to allow them to ask you questions about your income, assets, etc. It is important to note that a creditor appearing at this meeting is extremely rare, and hardly ever happens. Most often, it is just you, your attorney, and your trustee at the meeting.
Who is the trustee and what does he do?
The trustee assigned to your case is appointed by the United States Trustee, an officer of the Department of Justice, who oversees the bankruptcy. The trustee’s role in your case is to determine whether there are assets that can be liquidated for the benefit of your creditors. They are additionally appointed to make sure your bankruptcy complies with the bankruptcy code, that you have disclosed all income and property you have, and that those items do not exceed that which is allowed in by bankruptcy code in order to receive a discharge.
Appearing in court for your Meeting of Creditors is nothing to be worried about. If you have been thorough and completed your forms honestly and accurately, then the process will be extremely easy. All you have to do is attend the meeting, answer a few quick questions, and then you will be on your way.