Interviewer: Let’s go with a typical scenario and go step by step the process as far as applying for Chapter 13.
Step One: Consult with an Experienced Bankruptcy Attorney
Court Koehler: The typical process starts out very similar to Chapter 7. You see us; we offer free consultations. We’ll talk about your situation. The first thing you need to do is decide whether bankruptcy is right for your situation. If it is, we then discuss what kind of bankruptcy is a better option, such as whether it’s Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
Then we have some documents that we need you to provide, such as tax returns and paystubs. If you are filing a Chapter 13, you’ll need to provide property tax assessments if you own a house and some other paperwork.
There Is a Meeting of Creditors and with the Bankruptcy Trustee 30 Days after Filing Your Bankruptcy Petition
We help you throughout the petition process. Then, once that’s filed, we have what’s called a first meeting with creditors about 30 days after you filed your case. It’s a pretty short meeting where you meet with the trustee that’s assigned to your case and he looks over your petition and schedules.
He might ask you some questions to clarify with your situation. Generally, it’s a very short meeting and it goes really well, as long as we work together and submit all the documents that we need to the trustee. That happens about a month after you file.
A Confirmation Hearing Is Scheduled 2 to 3 Months after Filing for a Judge to Approve the Bankruptcy
Then, usually about between two and three months after you file, you’ll have a confirmation hearing, which is something that your lawyer goes to. You don’t have to go to it if you don’t want to. Usually people don’t attend but they can if they want to.
Your attorney and the trustee go in front of the judge and propose the Chapter 13 plan that you’ve come up with. The judge will determine whether or not there are any objections to the plan from your creditors or from the trustee and whether or not the plan is feasible. The judge decides whether it complies with all the requirements that you need to make as far as paying back certain amounts to your creditors and other criteria.
As soon as the plan is confirmed then you start with your Chapter 13 plan, and it continues, like I said earlier, for a period of three to five years, depending on your particular case.
The Bankruptcy Trustee
Interviewer: Let’s talk about the trustee. How is that individual selected to oversee bankruptcies?
Court Koehler: The trustee is appointed. The trustee’s office is actually a branch of the administrative government. There is a trustee’s office, and the trustee’s office oversees all sorts of different issues related to bankruptcies, both Chapter 13 and Chapter 7. They have attorneys that work for them and that work on your individual cases.
You will have a Chapter 13 trustee that is appointed to your case through the trustee’s office. That trustee is the one who is responsible for looking over your petitions and schedules and making sure that you’re meeting all the criteria and requirements under the bankruptcy code to proceed in the Chapter 13.
The Bankruptcy Trustee Oversees the Bankruptcy and Distributes Your Monthly Payment to Creditors
The trustee is the person that you will actually be making your monthly payments to, and he or she is responsible for getting those payments and distributing them out to your creditors.