Most people are embarrassed about the need to file for bankruptcy, and thus are nervous about having to appear before a judge in a courtroom to explain how their financial situation got so bad. The good news is that a chapter 7 bankruptcy filing usually requires only one appearance, and it won't necessarily be in a courtroom or before a judge. To help ease your fears, read on to learn more about this appearance.
An Informal Meeting
Since bankruptcy is a federal legal filing, it is handled by your local federal district court system. Usually, your single bankruptcy related appearance occurs a few weeks after your filing, and this appearance is actually referred to as a creditor's meeting, not a bankruptcy hearing. While the meeting will very likely occur in a federal building, it may not be in an actual courtroom. It can be held in a large conference room in a federal building. Regardless of where the meeting is held, the meeting is quite a bit less formal than a court hearing.
For chapter 7 filings, there are no real bankruptcy "judges". Instead, your creditor's meeting is presided over by your bankruptcy trustee. This person can be a judge, or they may be an attorney with a lot of bankruptcy experience. The bankruptcy trustee has many other duties when it comes to your bankruptcy case, and you may have noticed their name and signature on any paperwork you have received from the bankruptcy courts. In some cases, the bankruptcy trustee (or their representative) may visit your home to confirm the presence of property that may be seized to help pay creditors.
What about creditors?
While the title of the meeting contains the word "creditor", those parties seldom appear at the meeting. The creditors that do appear can question filers about their debts, and in some instances prevent the debt from being allowed on your bankruptcy petition. For example, if you used your credit cards to charge up a large amount of debt on frivolous purchases right before you filed, those purchases may be excluded.
What happens at the meeting?
You will be far from alone at this meeting, many others have the exact same appointment time as you! The cases are called in alphabetical order and when called you must rise and be sworn to tell the truth. The questioning usually consists of basic questions that are asked of each and every filer present:
- Have you read, do you understand and is this your signature on your bankruptcy petition?
- Have you filed your federal tax return?
- Have you ever filed for bankruptcy before?
- Is this petition an accurate listing of your debts and assets?
These questions vary, but your time before the trustee often lasts only few minutes.
Be sure to discuss this important meeting with a bankruptcy attorney, like one from Gruber & Associates, PC.