Sometimes debtors get confused between bankruptcy's meeting of creditors and bankruptcy's confirmation hearing. Here's the difference.
If you file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will have to attend a meeting of creditors in your case. This is a meeting with the bankruptcy trustee and perhaps some of your creditors. The meeting of creditors is not a court hearing before a bankruptcy judge, and it usually lasts only a few minutes.
A confirmation hearing is completely different. You will not have a confirmation hearing in Chapter 7 bankruptcy -- they only occur in Chapter 13 or Chapter 11 cases. A confirmation hearing can take five or ten minutes if your repayment plan is unopposed, or much longer if your case involves disputed factual or legal issues that have to be decided by the bankruptcy judge.
Read on to learn more about the difference between meetings of creditors and confirmation hearings.
Every bankruptcy case has a meetings of creditors (also called 341 hearings or 341 meetings after the section of the bankruptcy code that governs them.)
Timing. When your creditors meeting is held depends on the chapter under which you file bankruptcy. In Chapter 7 cases, the first meeting is scheduled 21 to 40 days after you file bankruptcy. In Chapter 13 cases, the first meeting may be set a little later – between 21 and 50 days after you file bankruptcy.
You must attend. If you don't attend the meeting fo creditors, the court could dismiss your bankruptcy case.
Not a court hearing. The meeting of creditors is required, but it is not a court proceeding. Instead, you meet with the trustee who has been appointed in your case and any creditors who choose to attend. The bankruptcy judge will not be present. The meeting is usually in a conference room, although the room might be in the same building as the bankruptcy court.
What happens at the meeting of creditors? At the meeting, the bankruptcy trustee will question you under oath. If any of your creditors show up for the meeting, they also may ask you questions. Usually, however, the only person who asks questions at the 341 hearing is the case trustee. The meeting is a short fact-finding session and the trustee's questions are usually routine and brief.
No court decisions. The trustee will not resolve issues that have to be decided by the bankruptcy judge.
For comprehensive information about the meeting of creditors, see our Meeting of Creditors topic area.
Confirmation hearings, by contrast, are court proceedings. Confirmation hearings are never held in Chapter 7 cases. They are held only in cases where the debtor is proposing a repayment plan -- typically in Chapter 13 or Chapter 11 cases. (This article doesn't discuss Chapter 11 hearings.)
The Chapter 13 repayment plan. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must propose a plan to repay some or all of your debts. You must file your Chapter 13 plan within 14 days of the petition date unless the bankruptcy court grants additional time. Many Chapter 13 debtors file their proposed plan along with their bankruptcy petition. (To learn more about the repayment plan, see our Chapter 13 Repayment Plan topic.)
The judge presides over the hearing. The bankruptcy judge must confirm (approve) your Chapter 13 plan for it to become effective. The court holds the plan confirmation hearing between 20 and 45 days after the first meeting of creditors. Generally, the Chapter 13 trustee will be present at least for your initial confirmation hearing. Creditors also may attend.
Attendance. If you have an attorney that attends the hearing, you don't have to go. Otherwise, you must attend the confirmation hearing.
Objections to the plan. In most Chapter 13 cases, confirmation hearings are relatively short – about five to 15 minutes. The Chapter 13 trustee will notify you if he or she has any objections to your plan before the confirmation hearing. Creditors also are required to file plan objections in advance of the hearing. Objections are usually worked out through stipulations or agreements before or at the confirmation hearing. It is common for confirmation hearings to be continued to give the parties additional time to resolve objections between themselves.
What happens at the confirmation hearing? The bankruptcy judge decides any disputes that cannot be worked out consensually. The judge also must approve any agreements or stipulations to resolve objections to your plan. In cases where there are factual disputes, the judge may take testimony from witnesses and admit documents and other evidence. Cases involving legal issues are decided based upon papers filed by the parties and argument before the judge. Confirmation hearings in contested cases may take 30 minutes or an hour if the issues are fairly simple. Confirmation hearings rarely last more than a single day even if there factual disputes that the judge needs to decide.
(To learn more about the confirmation hearing, see The Chapter 13 Confirmation Hearing.)