When we file your Chapter 13 plan, the Clerk of Bankruptcy Court will mail out a notice to you that contains important information about your case. Specifically this notice will contain:
- your case number
- the name of your Bankruptcy Judge and the address of his/her courtroom
- the name and address of your Chapter 13 trustee
- the date, time and place of your Section 341 meeting of creditors
- the date, time and place of the “confirmation” hearing of your case
- deadlines for creditors to file claims
Your confirmation hearing date represents the date that your case is scheduled to be either approved or rejected by the judge. In the Northern District of Georgia, Chapter 13 plan confirmation hearings are generally scheduled about 60 to 80 days after your case is filed. Your confirmation hearing date is not set in stone – Chapter 13 trustees routinely reset confirmation hearings to allow you and your attorney to fix problems.
Prior to confirmation, your case is in a kind of probationary status. The automatic stay of bankruptcy protects you but your case is at risk for dismissal if it is not confirmed (i.e., approved) by the judge.
Will I Have to Attend my Confirmation Hearing?
It is very unlikely that you will actually attend your confirmation hearing. Most issues that the trustee may have with your case will likely be worked out prior to the actual confirmation hearing and neither you nor your lawyer will need to attend. If you do have to attend confirmation, be prepared to wait. Since the clerk of court and the judges anticipate that most pre-confirmation issues will be resolved, court calendars can run 5o to 100 pages, covering 300 or more cases. The clerk may need an hour to call out the calendar to ask for the status of cases. While I have attended and argued confirmation issues in the past, I make every effort to resolve pre-confirmation issues to avoid the need for you or me to sit through one of these massive calendars.
What Types of Issues Might Prevent my Case from Being Confirmed?
There are many possible objections to confirmation that could be filed by your trustee or by a creditor, but the most common objections have to do with funding and with the length of your plan.
A funding objection means that your case does not have enough money paid in to the trustee’s office. In the Northern District of Georgia, every Chapter 13 case must be funded by payroll deduction. When your case is filed, the clerk of court sends an order to your employer directing the payroll person there to withhold a designated amount of money each paycheck and to send these funds in to the trustee. Sometimes payroll offices mess up. Sometimes they are late in starting the withholding. Sometimes they fail to send funds in timely.
The judge expects that you as the Chapter 13 debtor, will find a way to make sure that your case is funded. For example, if you do not see a payroll deduction on your first post-bankruptcy paycheck, you need to send the funds in directly to the trustee until your employer starts withholding money.
Please remember that your obligation to fund your case begins immediately.
A “terms” objection is another common problem. This objection means that your case will require more than 60 months (5 years) before it pays out. Chapter 13 bankruptcy law requires all Chapter 13 cases to conclude within 60 months so a plan that runs longer cannot be approved.
Why might your plan extend beyond 60 months? Usually cases run long because creditor claims come in higher than expected. For example, if we estimate that your car lender will file a claim for $12,500, and they file for $15,000, that extra $2,500 has be fit within your plan. Terms problems are usually cured by increasing the plan payment.
There are a variety of other objections that might be made in your case. Sometimes the trustee will object to your budget by claiming that you are allocating too much or too little to certain budget categories. In other instances, your particular trustee may want certain language in your plan. Most objections are technical in nature and will not require you to do anything, but will require me to file an amended plan. I ask my clients to call me up on receipt of any objection to confirmation to discuss.