What Happens in Bankruptcy Court

What Happens in Bankruptcy Court

Bankruptcy law enables you to request legal forgiveness of many of your debts. However, you must attend at least one hearing at your local branch of the United States Bankruptcy Court. Depending on the type of bankruptcy case you file and whether you hire an attorney, you might have to go to multiple hearings. Many people in financial trouble are worried about what happens in bankruptcy court, but in most cases you should not expect any major problems.


If you file personal Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you do not need a lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, you will probably have to attend two hearings. The first is a 341 meeting of creditors. Unless a creditor believes you are concealing assets or lied to get an account, your 341 hearing will most likely be brief and uneventful. The second hearing, which you can have a lawyer attend on your behalf, is usually when the judge accepts or denies your Chapter 7 claim. Unless you have incorrectly filled out your paperwork, you will probably not need to attend any other hearings and will likely receive a permanent "discharge" of most of your pre-existing debts.

If you declared Chapter 13, then what happens in bankruptcy court could be a little time-consuming. You will need to attend the standard meeting of creditors, even if you hire an attorney to represent you. You also must attend a plan and confirmation hearing; this phase determines the provisions of your partial debt repayment plan. It takes three to five years to pay off a Chapter 13 plan; you only get a discharge hearing once you finish that plan. You might have to attend other hearings during the course of your case, especially if you need permission to apply for new credit or have a drastic change in your financial situation. Remember, you must report both positive and negative financial changes to a bankruptcy trustee.

Keep in mind that you also must complete two credit counseling sessions to fully qualify for debt relief under personal bankruptcy laws. The sessions must be completed through a federally-licensed credit counseling service; one meeting will be before you can even file your paperwork and the other will occur right before a judge agrees to discharge or reduce your debts. However, you can attend these required meetings online or via the telephone if it is not convenient for you to do so in person.