This is another very common question that I answer almost every day. The short answer is “Yes”, at least one court appearance is required in every Bankruptcy case. But don’t worry! These hearings are usually low-key and don’t take all day.
When is my Court Date and What Happens There?
Your court date will be within 30 days of the date your case was filed. The Court will mail you an official notice of the date, time, and location of the meeting. These notices are usually mailed the day after you file, so you should get that notice in the mail within 7 to 10 days after filing. For most people this is generally enough time to schedule some time off work if needed.
The hearing you will have to attend when you file for Bankruptcy relief is called a Section 341 Meeting of Creditors. It is known as a Meeting of Creditors because it is a designated date for you to meet with the Bankruptcy Trustee and the representatives of any creditors who want to attend the meeting. Primarily the meeting is for you and your attorney to meet with the Trustee, who is going to be the person running the meeting. There is not a Judge present at the Meeting of Creditors, and in many cases you may never have to be in front of a Judge to complete your case. The Trustee will have several questions for you to answer under oath. The Trustee’s questions will typically be straightforward questions about your home finances such as “Have you filed your tax returns for the last 4 years?” or “Do you have insurance on your vehicles?”.
When the Trustee is finished with his or her questions (which usually only takes about 2 to 3 minutes or so), any creditors who are present also have the right to ask questions. Generally only secured creditors will come to the Meeting of Creditors. These Creditors are primarily interested in making sure their collateral is protected, so you can expect questions like “Has the vehicle been in a wreck?” or “Do you have homeowners insurance on the property?”. Don’t worry that the Creditors are going to try to harass or bother you at the Meeting with personal questions. Your attorney and the Trustee will be there to make sure that doesn’t happen. Altogether, at a typical Meeting of Creditors, the meeting itself will only take about 5 to 10 minutes.
What if I Can’t Come to my Court Date?
Sometimes a person can’t take time off work, or there is a death or illness in the family, and a person cannot get to court for their 341 Meeting. If something happens and you can’t attend your court hearing, be sure to let your attorney know immediately. Generally he or she can request a new date from the court and reschedule the hearing so long as the Trustee agrees. Many Trustees will agree to move a 341 Meeting one time. They understand that sometimes life doesn’t follow a predictable schedule.
What Happens After Court?
What happens after your court date is over depends on what kind of bankruptcy case you filed. In a Chapter 7 case, the 341 Meeting is usually the only court date that occurs. After about 45 to 60 days from the date of the Meeting you should get your discharge if everything else with the case went smoothly. In a Chapter 13 case there is a second court date called a Confirmation Hearing. However, your attorney can generally handle this meeting on your behalf without you being present.
Many people are nervous or upset at the prospect of having to be in a courtroom. At each of our Bond & Botes affiliated offices you’ll find friendly and experienced attorneys who are used to being in court on a weekly basis, and we’ll be happy to help you navigate the bankruptcy process. If you think bankruptcy may be the right financial move for you, please contact us to set up a free consultation about your situation.