Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Cases and Going to Court
When you file a bankruptcy case the first “hearing” that you will attend is called the first meeting of creditors or the “341 Meeting”. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases in the Northern District of Alabama, the Chapter 7 meeting of creditors is conducted by a lawyer who is appointed from a panel to handle the administration of your case. The lawyer is called the Trustee. Your creditors have the right to be present at the meeting; however, very few people ever have a creditor appear at the meeting. Sometimes a bankruptcy attorney representing a secured creditor will be present to get you to sign documents (a reaffirmation agreement) agreeing to continue paying your debt. In almost all Chapter 7 cases you will never go to court again.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case Meeting of Creditors
In Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, like in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, your first hearing is the meeting of creditors. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases in the Northern District of Alabama there are certain lawyers who have been appointed as the Chapter 13 Standing Trustee. As I mentioned above, Chapter 7 Trustees are chosen from a panel on a case-by-case basis. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, the same person acts as the Chapter 13 Trustee for all cases filed within a designated geographic region. The Chapter 13 Trustee is not the judge. He like the Chapter 7 Trustee is a lawyer. The judge is not allowed to attend any 341 meetings. As in Chapter 7 cases, few creditors attend the meeting of creditors. Some creditors do send their bankruptcy lawyer to confirm basic information like whether you have insurance on a vehicle you wish to keep.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case Confirmation Hearings
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, you may have to go to Court and appear before the Bankruptcy Judge. If you have to appear, it is usually at the confirmation hearing which is held about 30 days after your meeting of creditors. The confirmation hearing is when the Bankruptcy Judge approves your plan of reorganization. As a general rule you will not have to attend the confirmation hearing unless you have to provide testimony about the value of an asset or the amount owed on a particular claim. Your bankruptcy lawyer will be able to tell you in advance whether you will have to appear before the Bankruptcy Judge.
Other Court Appearances in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Cases
Since Chapter 13 cases last between 3 and 5 years, there may be other times when it will be necessary for you to appear before the Judge. If you have to modify your plan or if your case comes up for dismissal for non-payment, you may have to appear and explain to the Bankruptcy Judge what has happened during your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.
Whenever You Go to Court Your Bankruptcy Lawyer Will Be With You.
While bankruptcy is a complex area of law, once your case is filed the process is relatively straight forward. Filing bankruptcy requires filling out a lot of paper work and going to at least the meeting of creditors. If you do have to appear before the Bankruptcy Judge, your bankruptcy lawyer will be with you. If you hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney and you can rest easy knowing that your bankruptcy case will be handled correctly.