DO I HAVE TO GO TO COURT IF I FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY?
When you file for bankruptcy, you usually never need to ever go into a courtroom or appear before a judge.
You do, however, need to appear at a “meeting of the creditors” (also referred to as a “341 hearing”). This usually occurs about 30 days after your bankruptcy case is filed.
The 341 hearing is presided over by a bankruptcy “Trustee”. Bankruptcy trustees are lawyers who have been appointed by the United States Trustee Office to assist in overseeing bankruptcy cases.
The 341 hearings are held at the federal courthouse in the bankruptcy meeting rooms.
In both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases, your creditors hardly ever appear at the 341 hearings. Therefore, the only parties who usually attend are you, your attorney and the Trustee.
Chapter 7 341 hearings usually take only 5-10 minutes. Chapter 13 341 hearings usually take between 10-15 minutes.
The only time you would ever need to actually go into a courtroom and appear before your bankruptcy judge would be when something unusual came up in your case and the Court wished to hear your input on the matter.
For example, if a person was in a Chapter 13 case and experienced an unexpected illness or job loss and wasn’t able to continue with their Chapter 13 plan, they can sometimes file a “Motion for Hardship Discharge” wherein we are requesting that the Court grant you your bankruptcy discharge earlier than originally planned. In such cases, the Court would require you to appear and explain how your circumstances had changed and why you can no longer afford to continue with your Chapter 13 plan.
However, most clients are never required to go into court and appear before a judge.