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I'm filing for bankruptcy. Will I have to go to court?

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In a Nutshell

Most people who file for bankruptcy on their own only need to show up to court twice. The first time is when they file their forms with the bankruptcy court. This just involves walking into the court and giving the bankruptcy forms you have filled out to the clerk’s office.

Written by Attorney Jonathan Petts.  
Updated August 9, 2020


Most people who file for bankruptcy on their own only need to show up to court twice. The first time is when they file their forms with the bankruptcy court. This just involves walking into the court and giving the bankruptcy forms you have filled out to the clerk’s office. If an attorney is helping you prepare your case, then it is likely that the attorney can file your forms electronically for you, so you never have to show up at the court to file your forms.

The second time you have to show up to the courthouse is for your 341-meeting, also known as your “Meeting of the Creditors.” This is a brief 5-minute meeting, where an official, known as your trustee, asks you a few questions to make sure you were telling the truth on your bankruptcy forms. If you answer truthfully and the trustee believes you are not committing fraud through your bankruptcy filing, the trustee will “approve” you for a discharge. That’s it.

If something goes wrong, you may need to show up in court again. The vast majority of people who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, however, do not have any problems because their cases are simple. When you do not own very much property and you do not earn very much money, it is unlikely that any issues will arise during your bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a legal process, but your experience will look nothing like what you imagine when you think of courtrooms and law on television. When you file for bankruptcy, there is no trial, and almost never does a lawyer show up against you during your 341 meeting. It is not worth the time of credit card companies to send lawyers to show up against you when you do not have any property that they can seize.

Overall, the process of filing for bankruptcy is very similar to the process of applying for SNAP (food stamps) or unemployment benefits. You submit your paperwork to the court and then you show up for a brief 5-minute meeting, where an official “approves” you for a discharge.



Written By:

Attorney Jonathan Petts

LinkedIn

Jonathan Petts has over 10 years of experience in bankruptcy and is co-founder and Board Chair of Upsolve. Attorney Petts has an LLM in Bankruptcy from St. John's University, clerked for two federal bankruptcy judges, and worked at two top New York City law firms specializing in... read more about Attorney Jonathan Petts

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