Bankruptcy Court Overview
The United States Bankruptcy Code is the uniform federal law that governs all bankruptcy cases. The bankruptcy process is governed by the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (often called the “Bankruptcy Rules”) and local rules of each bankruptcy court. Although bankruptcy courts are federal courts, they represent a completely separate and distinct court system. Each state has one or more bankruptcy court districts, and there are 90 bankruptcy districts across the country. Bankruptcy judges have the power to decide any matter connected with a bankruptcy case, such as eligibility to file or whether a debtor should receive a discharge of debts.
The Big Secret About Bankruptcy Court
Believe it or not, a simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is much, much less intimidating than many small claims cases can be! The reason for this is simple. Much of the bankruptcy process is pure paperwork, which means that it’s entirely form driven, and the Bankruptcy Rules contain a set of official forms for use in bankruptcy cases.
Better still, a typical Chapter 7 debtor will not appear in court and will rarely see a bankruptcy judge. The process is carried out by an individual called a Trustee who is appointed to oversee the case. The Trustee may or may not be an attorney, and his main responsibility is to determine whether there are assets available to pay creditors.
A chapter 13 debtor may only have to appear before the bankruptcy judge at a plan confirmation hearing. Usually, the only formal proceeding at which a debtor must appear is the meeting of creditors, which is usually held at the Trustee’s office. This meeting is informally called a “341 meeting” because section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires that the debtor attend this meeting so that creditors can question the debtor about debts and property.