Filing Bankruptcy: Do I have to go to court? What to expect

Part 1 – Meeting of Creditors

When we meet with our clients for the first time, it is often a person’s first contact with a lawyer. Because of the varying portraits of the legal system, we find a wide diversity of concerns as it pertains to “court.” In fact, one of the most often asked questions is “will I have to go to court?” And of course the underlying concern is “what happens in court.” For the most part, people do not like to speak in public and the thought of court provides an extra layer of anxiety to an otherwise stressful process.

When filing for bankruptcy relief, whether it be chapter 7 or chapter 13, section 341 of the bankruptcy code requires that the trustee conduct a meeting of creditors. The person filing for bankruptcy relief must attend such hearing and answer any questions pertaining to his or her bankruptcy. This meeting of creditors is commonly referred to as court because it is usually conducted at the court house.

In reality, the meeting of creditors is not actual court in the traditional sense. While it may be at the courthouse, the creditor meeting could be conducted anywhere. The bankruptcy trustee is the person who calls and conducts the meeting. The trustee is also the person who asks the majority of questions. In many instances, but not all, your attendance at the creditor meeting will be the only time you have to travel to court. At the creditor meeting, there will be a number of other bankruptcy cases scheduled for the same time as your creditor meeting. This is referred to as a docket.

At first, the trustee calls the roll to determine if everyone is in attendance. The trustee may give a brief summary of the purpose of the creditor meeting, place you under oath, and remind you to bring your identification to the witness stand.

Our lawyers have attended thousands of creditor meetings. For the most part, having attended so many creditor meetings, we know the questions that the trustee will ask. When you retain us to represent you, you will call into the office approximately one week before court and we will prepare you for the anticipated questions. By calling in one week ahead of time, we can also determine whether you have any change in circumstances (e.g. increased income). By doing this, we can help relive any anxiety you may have about going to “court.”

Even though it is called a creditor meeting, it does not mean that all of your creditors will be present. In fact, creditor meetings are marked by creditor indifference. While the creditors can attend, we find that creditors rarely show up for these meetings. So, don’t be surprised if none of your creditors are in attendance.

You are free to leave after concluding your creditor meeting. If you filed for chapter 7, chances are you will not have to attend any further court hearings. If you filed for chapter 13, there is another court hearing which takes place. The second hearing is called confirmation. The confirmation hearing is an actual court hearing in the presence of the judge. The good news is that you may not have to attend. We will discuss confirmation hearing in the second part of this article.

If you are wondering if Bankruptcy could be the answer to your financial problems, then give us a call and we’ll schedule your FREE appointment right away.