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How To Figure Out Your Local Bankruptcy Court's Current COVID-19 Policies

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In a Nutshell

While COVID-19 continues to impact certain aspects of daily life, the guidelines are ever-changing. This is also true for many bankruptcy courts across the U.S. There are some general guidelines for bankruptcy courts, but many are evaluating the situation locally to determine what accommodations to make. This article will help you understand where to look to find the latest information from your local court.

Written by Upsolve Team
Updated May 4, 2022

How To Find Your Local Bankruptcy Court

The bankruptcy process is governed by a federal law called the Bankruptcy Code. But each state has its own bankruptcy court locations for individuals to file their bankruptcy forms. To find your local bankruptcy court, you can look up your state on the federal court website.

You can also find your state on Upsolve’s State Bankruptcy Guide page. These state guides provide comprehensive information about filing bankruptcy in each of the 50 states and Washington D.C. You can use the links in the article to find the local court that serves you.

How To Find Your Local Court’s COVID-19 Policies

Once you’ve found the bankruptcy court that serves residents in your area, visit its webpage to see what, if any, changes they’ve made to court procedures for bankruptcy filings. Many courts post this information front and center on the homepage. If you don’t see it there, you can look for a News and Announcements section on the website. If all else fails, enter “current COVID-19 policies” into the court’s search bar to see what comes up. 

You can also call the court and ask how they’re currently handling pro se bankruptcy filings. If you’re working with a lawyer, they can file your bankruptcy forms online. If you’re filing on your own or using Upsolve’s filing tool, you may have a few options to file your forms and pay your filing fee. More states are starting to offer online filing options for pro se filers, but many still don’t. Consult the state guide above or contact your local court to ask what options you have to file your bankruptcy petition.

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How Are Courts Handling 341 Meetings?

If you’re familiar with the steps to filing bankruptcy, you already know you’ll have to attend a meeting of creditors. This is sometimes called the 341 meeting, and it’s run by the trustee assigned to your case. Prior to the pandemic, these were held in person in a meeting room at the courthouse or at an off-site location. When the pandemic hit, the U.S. Trustee Program issued guidance requiring 341 meetings to be held by telephone or video conference instead of in person.

As of August 28, 2020, the U.S. Trustee Program has extended the requirement that 341 meetings be held by telephone or video conference indefinitely. In-person meetings may resume 60 days after the President’s “Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak” is terminated. 

That said, if a trustee determines that an in-person meeting is necessary for a particular case, they can ask the U.S. Trustee Program to approve such a meeting. In-person meetings must be held in a manner that complies with local public health guidance.

How Are Courts Handling Other Hearings?

Most Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers don’t have to make a court appearance in front of a judge or attend any hearings. There are some situations that do require a court hearing in a Chapter 7 case. And if you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may have to attend a plan confirmation hearing where the judge approves your repayment plan. 

Each court is responsible for determining how to handle these hearings. Many courts are continuing to do these hearings virtually by Zoom or Skype or telephonically. Again, you’ll need to check with your local court to see how it’s handling hearings. 

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    Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income families who cannot afford lawyers file bankruptcy for free, using an online web app. Our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have world-class funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and leading foundations. It's one of the greatest civil rights injustices of our time that low-income families can't access their basic rights when they can't afford to pay for help. Combining direct services and advocacy, we're fighting this injustice.

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