The decision to file for bankruptcy is typically a difficult one to make. People often try various other solutions before finally deciding that bankruptcy is the best, or only, option available. If you are considering filing a bankruptcy case, you likely have a variety of concerns that are causing you to hesitate. One of those concerns may be that you are worried you will have to appear before a judge if you file bankruptcy. If this is a concern, you should know that most debtors that file bankruptcy never set foot in an actual courtroom. They never have to face a judge when they file bankruptcy.
An individual debtor (or married couple) typically files bankruptcy under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. A Chapter 7 is the most desirable type of bankruptcy to file because a Chapter 7 results in the vast majority of your debts being discharged, or eliminated, without having to pay that debt back. When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, a local attorney who has been trained to serve as the Chapter 7 Trustee, is automatically appointed in your case. Trustees are often attorneys but they are never the judge that is assigned to your case. Although a judge is assigned to your case, the Chapter 7 Trustee is the other attorney that you will see after your case is filed. The Chapter 7 Trustee will review the Schedules and Statement of Financial Affairs that were filed in your case. Your meeting with the Trustee is set automatically when your case is filed. Your attorney will attend your meeting with the Trustee and will prepare you for that meeting and make sure that it runs smoothly for you.
This meeting takes place at a courthouse or other location. However, your meeting will not be held in a courtroom and you do not have to sit in a witness stand. You, your attorney and the Chapter 7 Trustee meet in a conference room for the meeting. As a general rule, this is the only court appearance that you will have in your Chapter 7 case. Your attorney should be able to tell you almost exactly what questions the Chapter 7 Trustee will ask you at the meeting.
If you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, the same basic information applies. A Chapter 13 Trustee will oversee your case and preside over the meeting of creditors. The monthly garnishment of your paycheck will be paid to the Chapter 13 Trustee who will use those funds to pay your creditors in accordance with your Chapter 13 plan. You may, however, be required to appear before the bankruptcy judge at the plan confirmation hearing. However, at this hearing your attorney will make the presentation to the Court. Only rarely will you have to take the witness stand and testify. The confirmation hearing is usually just a formality where the Court formally confirms the repayment plan you have submitted.
For most debtors, unless an objection is filed or an issue arises requiring litigation, they will never have to appear before a judge during their bankruptcy case.