What I Learned from Bankruptcy Court

Throughout my time as a personal bankruptcy paralegal I spoke to debtors as they were going through every step of the process. Whether they were filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy the emotions and questions were very similar. My goals were always the same: make sure they were paired with the best bankruptcy attorney for their situation and help them feel prepared for what was next. After preparing many debtors for their bankruptcy court hearing I would get calls or emails letting me know how it went. Here are some of the things that debtors said they learned from bankruptcy court.

  1. It Wasn’t Like TV Court: Many of us picture a judge, jury, and crowds of people when someone mentions a “court appearance,” but bankruptcy court isn’t like that at all. The hearing is performed by a bankruptcy trustee and there is no need for a jury. One similarity is that in most cases your bankruptcy lawyer will be present with you.
  2. My Creditors Weren’t There: Although the bankruptcy court appearance is also known as the “Meeting of Creditors” there are rarely any creditors present, and even if they are the bankruptcy trustee does not allow them to badger or harass the debtor. If some of your creditors choose to attend the hearing they will most likely speak directly to the trustee and not to you.
  3. It was Over Quickly: One of the most surprising things about the bankruptcy court hearing is the speed of which it takes place. Depending on the type of bankruptcy, a standard bankruptcy hearing can last anywhere from 8-20 minutes!
  4. The Questions Were Harmless: As mentioned earlier the “Meeting of Creditors” is performed by a bankruptcy trustee who will ask the debtor a series of questions to ensure that no fraud has been committed. In most cases, these questions will be simple ones like: “do you own a home,” “are you expecting to inherit any money in the next few months,” and “have you listed all of your debts and assets?”
  5. I’m Not Going Through This Alone: In most cases bankruptcy hearings all take place in 1 or 2 specific courtrooms within the district courthouse; this typically means that those courtrooms have quite a few people in them at one time. It is typical for your hearing to be one of many that is taking place that day.

There may be certain levels of worry associated with filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but your court hearing shouldn’t be one of them. Remind yourself that after the 10-15 minutes you spend answering questions for the bankruptcy trustee you will just be waiting for your bankruptcy discharge: the paperwork stating that your debts have been eliminated and your bankruptcy is fully completed. If you are still feeling anxiety about your bankruptcy hearing as your bankruptcy lawyer to go through some typical questions with you to give you an extra confidence boost.

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