What Factors Determine Whether I Must Appear Before the Bankruptcy Court Judge?
Court appearances are fairly rare in most bankruptcy cases. But whether you must face a judge depends partly on which Chapter your cased is filed under. It also depends on whether you are reaffirming a debt. It can also depend on what your creditors do. A very small minority of bankruptcy cases wind up looking like – and sometimes are just like – litigation.
Most cases (still about 72%) are Chapter 7. Here is how an ordinary timeline would look IF a the judge is going to require you to appear before her or him. If the case is well planned and prepared, there should be no disagreement with the Chapter 7 Trustee nor with the U.S. Trustee about the bedrock fundamentals of your case. i.e., you filed the correct chapter, you’re not concealing property or income and have given the Court a complete picture of your financial situation.
You also have personal property which is encumbered. That means there is a lender who has a lien on the property. That property is usually a car. It could be almost anything on which a lien can be taken, though. You want to keep the property, keep making the payments on the debt and you indicate you are willing to “reaffirm” the debt.
What Does Reaffirmation Have to Do With Seeing the Bankruptcy Court Judge?
A reaffirmation is the most common event which occasions a court hearing in an ordinary “no asset” Chapter 7. Of course, COVID has driven court appearances online, but let’s not get bogged down with geography. In our hypothetical car loan, the debtor and her counsel have checked the box in the first-filed forms that say the debtor wants to reaffirm. That sets in motion the sequence of events that ends with a hearing on the reaffirmation. (Other pages discuss reaffirmations greater detail.)
Other than for reaffirmation or redemption motions, a “garden variety? Chapter 7 should not involve a hearing in front of the judge. Even most reaffirmations and redemption motions are now processed entirely without court appearances. The judge either grants or denies the motions based on written motion(s), evidence and argument.