When you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must go to a mandatory hearing called the meeting of creditors before your case can be approved (confirmed) by the court. This is usually a simple hearing to verify the information in your bankruptcy papers. However, it may be an overwhelming experience if you don’t know what to expect when you get there. Read on to learn more about what happens at a Chapter 13 bankruptcy meeting of creditors.
For information on Chapter 13 bankruptcy, including eligibility, repayment plans and more, see the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Center.
The primary purpose of the Chapter 13 meeting of creditors is to allow the bankruptcy trustee (and any creditors who choose to attend) to verify the information in your bankruptcy papers and ask you questions about your financial affairs. The Chapter 13 trustee also uses this time to determine whether your case is ready to be approved by the court. If the trustee believes that you should be paying more to your unsecured creditors, he or she can object to the confirmation of your Chapter 13 repayment plan.
The Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee conducts the meeting of creditors. There is no judge at the hearing. However, you may be required to attend a confirmation hearing in front of a judge (especially if the trustee objects to your plan) after your meeting of creditors.
Your creditors can also come to your meeting of creditors and ask you questions. However, in most cases, no creditors attend these hearings. Generally, secured creditors (such as your car lender) are the most likely to appear at your hearing to ask whether you wish to keep or surrender the property securing their loan and verify that it is properly insured.
This means that you will usually be examined only by the Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee. But the meeting of creditors is open to the public so anyone can observe your hearing. Further, the other Chapter 13 debtors will typically be in the same hearing room when you are being examined.
Normally, there are several meetings of creditors scheduled at the same hour. The trustee will call each case one by one. When your name is called, you must go to the trustee’s desk to begin the examination. Before the trustee can begin, you must provide identification and proof of your social security number so it is a good idea to get those documents ready while you are waiting.
In addition to verifying the information in your bankruptcy petition, the Chapter 13 trustee’s job is to make sure you are paying all of your disposable income to your unsecured creditors. As a result, most trustee questions concentrate on your income and expenses to determine whether you should be paying more to unsecured creditors through your repayment plan.
If the Chapter 13 trustee is satisfied with your repayment plan and other bankruptcy papers, he or she will conclude your hearing. This means that you won’t be required to attend another hearing in front of the trustee. However, you may still have to go to a confirmation hearing in front of the judge.
If the trustee requires further information or objects to your repayment plan, he or she can continue the hearing to another date to resolve any remaining issues. Alternatively, instead of continuing the hearing, the trustee can let you know that he or she will move to dismiss your case at your confirmation hearing in front of the judge. If the trustee wants to dismiss your case, you will need to argue and show the judge why your bankruptcy should be approved.
In general, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a lot more complicated than a Chapter 7. As a result, consider talking to a local bankruptcy attorney prior to filing your case. Visit Nolo's Lawyer Directory to locate a bankruptcy attorney in your geographic area.
Or, for comprehensive information about Chapter 13 bankruptcy, including what happens to your home, car, and debts, see Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Keep Your Property & Repay Debts Over Time, by Stephen Elias and Kathleen Michon (Nolo).