What is Bankruptcy Court?
Bankruptcy Court: The Basics
In bankruptcy court, you meet with a bankruptcy trustee so he or she can confirm your petition and ask any relevant questions about your assets and debts. This meeting doesn’t take place in an adversarial setting and may not even be in a typical courtroom (hopefully this will ease some of your stress in facing this unfamiliar event). These meetings are commonly referred to as a “meeting of creditors” or a “341 meeting”. Your attendance is mandatory at the meeting of creditors. If you do not attend, your case may be dismissed.
After passing through security, you arrive in the hearing room along with other bankruptcy petitioners who also have bankruptcy court cases. Depending on the number of individuals on the schedule, you may have to wait an hour or two (that doesn’t mean you should risk being late because your case could be called first). When your turn arrives, the hearing may last only a matter of minutes.
How to Prepare for Bankruptcy Court
There are several ways you can prepare for a meeting of creditors:
- Arrive early (don’t just be on time—and don’t be late): Give yourself plenty of time to prepare your documents, fight traffic and find parking. Arrive at least half an hour before your bankruptcy court hearing is scheduled.
- Remember to bring an official document that shows your Social Security Number: Your Social Security Card is the best document to evidence your social security number. If you don’t have it or can’t find it, any official document displaying your Social Security Number should suffice.
- Have a valid government-issued ID with you: Not only should you double check to make sure you have your ID, but take a moment to verify that it isn’t expired. If you show up to the bankruptcy court hearing with an expired or illegible ID, you may not be permitted to proceed with your hearing.
- Dress appropriately for the occasion: Dressing properly for your bankruptcy court hearing shows respect for the court, the trustee and your creditors. Wear at least business-casual clothing, be clean and tidy, and avoid flip flops or sneakers.
Helpful Tips about Bankruptcy Court
The title “meeting of creditors” can be slightly misleading when it comes to bankruptcy court, as creditors rarely appear at this hearing (at least for average consumer-bankruptcy cases). However, a creditor may appear at your hearing if it has reason to dispute your right to discharge its debt. If a creditor shows up at your bankruptcy court hearing, the creditor’s representative may sit at the table with you, the bank trustee, and your bankruptcy lawyer.
Like any other court hearing, you will be sworn in and promise to tell the truth throughout your bankruptcy court hearing. Once your identity is confirmed, the bank trustee will ask you relevant questions about your assets and debts. Relax, answer the questions honestly, and follow the instructions from your bankruptcy lawyer. While it may be an unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation, when you have a bankruptcy attorney by your side, the bankruptcy court usually goes smoothly and quickly.