Everyone who files a bankruptcy petition must attend a First Meeting of Creditors. In a chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may also be required to attend a confirmation hearing. In unusual cases, there may be other hearings you will need to attend.
First Meeting of Creditors
The First Meeting of Creditors is typically held three to six weeks after you file your petition. Usually the meeting is conducted by a bankruptcy trustee rather than a judge. The meetings often take place in a conference room rather than a formal courtroom.
This meeting will take place about 30 or 40 days after your filing date. Most of the time, the First Meeting of Creditors lasts only a few minutes, but the same proceedings for several other debtors might be scheduled at the same time, so you could spend some time waiting for your case to be called. If you fail to attend the meeting, your case will probably be dismissed.
Either before or during the meeting, the trustee will ask you to provide certain documents, including tax returns and pay stubs, to verify the information in your petition. You also need to bring a valid form of identification to the meeting.
At the First Meeting of Creditors, the trustee will administer an oath. You will swear to answer questions truthfully. Then the trustee will ask you questions about your bankruptcy petition. The trustee will want to know that the information in your petition is complete and accurate.
If there is anything in your petition that the trustee does not understand, of if the trustee does not know how you arrived at the dollar value of an asset if it seems suspiciously low, the trustee will ask you for clarification. The trustee might also ask you about your monthly expenses if they seem unusually large.
Your creditors are entitled to attend the meeting and to ask you questions. That rarely happens. Occasionally in a chapter 7 bankruptcy, a secured creditor will ask you about the location and condition of secured property. Most of the time creditors find it easier to telephone your attorney to get that information rather than attending the hearing.
In most cases, a creditor only asks questions if the creditor suspects that you did not disclose all of your assets or income on your bankruptcy petition, or believes that you transferred assets to a friend or relative or paid one creditor at the expense of others shortly before you filed bankruptcy. Creditors are most likely to question you if they suspect you are concealing property or committing some other kind of fraud.
If you made expensive credit card purchases or obtained cash advances on a credit card shortly before you filed bankruptcy, a representative of the credit card company might ask you what you did with the cash advances or why you made those purchases. That information will help the credit card company decide whether to file an objection to the discharge of your credit card debt.
Some Bankruptcy Courts require debtors and their lawyers to attend confirmation hearings in chapter 13 cases. Some only require you to attend if the trustee or a creditor is objecting to the confirmation of your chapter 13 plan.
The trustee or a creditor might object if they think your proposed plan payment is too low or if it seems unlikely that you will be able to make the payment. If there is no objection to the plan, the hearing is a formality. Some courts dispense with the hearing entirely if nobody is objecting to confirmation. If a confirmation hearing is held, it will take place within 45 days after your First Meeting of Creditors.
Certain other hearings, often called “adversarial hearings,” can be held if a creditor objects to your discharge. A creditor might object if the creditor believes you have committed fraud or are not entitled to discharge the creditor’s debt for some other reason.
If the Bankruptcy Court grants the objecting creditor an adversarial hearing, you and your lawyer will be required to attend. In most bankruptcy proceedings, no adversarial hearings are held.
Bankruptcy is complex and many answers depend upon your specific situation. If you still have questions you can schedule a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney.