Chapter 13 functions as a 5-year payment plan. When we file your case, we submit a proposed plan of repayment. Creditors and the Chapter 13 trustee are given about 2 months to review your proposed plan and to observe your performance under the plan. They may, and usually do, file objections designed to squeeze you to pay more into your plan.
As the confirmation date for your plan draws closer, the pace of negotiations between us, the trustee and creditors will intensify and, if all goes well, the trustee and creditors will withdraw their objections and your case will remain in force for the next 5 years as you make regular trustee payments.
In reality, of course, bankruptcy cases rarely run completely smoothly. Issues pop up that may require additional negotiations. If a problem comes up, the procedure in Bankruptcy Court is for one of the parties to request a hearing. When that happens, a court date will be scheduled.
Court Dates in Chapter 13 Cases
Every Chapter 13 debtor must make at least one court appearance – that would involve appearing at a Section 341 meeting of creditors. This hearing is mandatory and relatively informal. No judge is present – the 341 hearing is presided over by the Chapter 13 trustee.
Every Chapter 13 case also has a confirmation hearing date assigned. This hearing will be scheduled for the judge’s courtroom, about 2 months after your case is filed. In practice, it is very unlikely that you will be required to actually attend the confirmation hearing. If we resolve all trustee and creditor objections prior to confirmation then there is no need to attend this hearing.
Section 341 Meeting of Creditors hearing
A 341 hearing is scheduled in every Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 that is filed. It is called a 341 hearing because Section 341 of the United States Bankruptcy Code requires all debtors to be examined by a Trustee.
When held: 30 to 45 days after you file
Your attendance: MANDATORY
How long will it take: in most cases, 341 hearings last about 10 minutes. Your case will be part of an hour long calendar. The calendar is called at the beginning of the hour. If you are late, your case may be dismissed, or you may have to face an angry Judge to explain why you were late. I recommend that you plan to arrive 30 minutes to an hour early.
What will happen: your 341 hearing will be run by your Trustee. Trustees are not judges, but they report directly to the Judges. The Trustee’s goal in a 341 hearing is to review the paperwork you and your attorney filed, ask questions about your financial situation and decide whether to file an objection to your case.
Questions you can expect from your Chapter 7 Trustee
Questions you can expect from your Chapter 13 Trustee and examples of common Objections to Confirmation
Who else may be there: Attorneys or paralegals representing your creditors can also appear and question you at a 341 hearing. Creditors usually ask you questions in order to see if you have money or assets not revealed in your Schedules. Thus, it is wise to bring your bankruptcy paperwork and to read it prior to your hearing. Secured creditors may also ask for proof of insurance on your car or home.
Anxiety rating for a 341 hearing – 5 out of 10
Chapter 13 confirmation hearing
When held: 30 to 45 days after 341 hearing
Your attendance: very unlikely that you will have to appear – do not assume, however, check with your lawyer
How long will it take: There may be as many as 250 cases on a Judge’s confirmation calendar. You may be sitting for 4 or 5 hours before you are called – your actual hearing may be ten to thirty minutes long. This is why it is in everyone’s best interest to resolve the Trustee’s and Creditor’s objections to Confirmation sooner rather than later.
What will happen: when your case is called, you will sit with your lawyer at small tables at the front of the Courtroom. Bankruptcy Courtrooms are large and formal. The Judge will be in a black robe. Most of the time, your lawyer will speak for you. In some cases, you will be asked to testify from the witness box.
Who else will be there: You may be in a crowded courtroom in front of several hundred people. You may be asked questions by your lawyer, the Judge, the Trustee or a creditor lawyer.
Anxiety rating for a confirmation hearing: 9 out of 10
Motion for Relief hearing
When held: 15 to 45 days after a secured creditor files a Motion for Relief
Your attendance: it is possible you may need to appear – check with your lawyer.
How long it will take: You may be sitting 4 or 5 hours – your hearing may be 10 to 30 minutes long.
What will happen: Motions for Relief are typically filed by secured creditors who want to foreclose on the collateral you pledged. Most of these Motions are filed in Chapter 13 cases. For example, if you included a mortgage debt in your case and you have failed to make all post-petition mortgage payments, the mortgage lender will file a Motion for Relief. Similarly, if your car insurance lapses or if you fail to tender trustee payments, the car lender may file a Motion for Relief from Stay. If the stay is lifted, your bankruptcy will no longer prevent that creditor from foreclosing on its collateral. Often Motions for Relief from Stay are settled at the last minute by Consent Order. The Consent Order may give you one last chance at keeping your property.
Anxiety rating for a Motion for Relief hearing: 7 out of 10
Motion to Dismiss hearing
When held: 20 to 30 days after the Chapter 13 Trustee files a Motion to Dismiss.
Your attendance: Unlikely
How long it will take: you may sit one to three hours before your case is called before the Judge. Your actual hearing may last 10 minutes.
What will happen: Your Chapter 13 Trustee will file a Motion to Dismiss if you fall behind in your payments to the Trustee (a funding problem) or if the Trustee’s computer shows your case running longer than 60 months (a term problem). When the Motion is filed, a copy will be mailed to you and to your lawyer. If you want to contest the Motion to Dismiss, your lawyer needs to file an Objection to the Motion to Dismiss. If you receive a Motion to Dismiss, it is imperative that you contact your lawyer immediately. A Motion to Dismiss may be filed three or four years into your case. If you have moved or changed numbers, your lawyer may not be able to find you. If your lawyer cannot find you, he cannot object to the Motion to Dismiss. Many Motions to Dismiss are not contested because lawyers cannot find their clients. Don’t let this happen to you – let your lawyer know where you are. Most Motions to Dismiss can be resolved using a strict compliance Consent Order that gives you a final chance to make your casework. You may have to agree to pay the Trustee a lump sum and/or increase your Trustee payment to cure the Motion to Dismiss. Motions to Dismiss are rarely heard since the issues are simple.
Anxiety rating: 7 out of 10
Other than the Section 341 Meeting of Creditors hearing which you will have to attend, you may never have to appear and testify at any other hearing. If you receive a notice of hearing for your case, immediately contact your lawyer to discuss what might happen and what you might have to do. Plan to attend any scheduled hearing unless you hear otherwise from your lawyer.