Can People Still File for Bankruptcy?
As of the writing of this article, people can still file for bankruptcy. The best thing you can do is to check your court’s website to see whether or not the court has published any specific guidance regarding filing for bankruptcy. Most courts are posting updates often regarding the impact of coronavirus. For example, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia has posted that their Gainesville location is closed. However, the clerk’s offices in Atlanta, Rome, and Newnan are still open as of this writing.
Even when certain courthouses are closed to the public, many still have staff operating. The lawyers at Thrift McLemore can help you figure out how to apply. We can help you file your bankruptcy application via mail. We can advise you as to which address to mail your forms and pay the filing fee.
Meetings of Creditors Have Been Rescheduled
During the bankruptcy process, a meeting of creditors will need to take place. A meeting of creditors is also known as a 341 meeting. Typically, the meeting is in a room, not the bankruptcy courtroom. The debtor will meet the trustee. Your creditors will also be invited to attend the meeting. Many times your meeting will only last for around 10 minutes. At this meeting, the bankruptcy court will appoint a trustee.
The trustee will review your paperwork to make sure it is accurate. He or she will also investigate any potential fraudulent activity and whether or not you’ve filed for the appropriate type of bankruptcy. Creditors have the opportunity to appear at the meeting but they often do not choose to appear. If creditors do attend, they may ask questions about current credit card charges or whether or not you’ve taken on debt without the intention of paying for it.
I Recently Filed for Bankruptcy: When Will the Court Schedule my 341 Meeting?
Bankruptcy courts have reset all meetings of creditors that were scheduled between March 16 and April 10. If you had a meeting of creditors scheduled during that time period, the Court will send you notice of reset. The federal government has since issued guidance that the shut down of public places should remain until at least April 30th. If your appointment is scheduled at any time during April, it could be rescheduled or you may need to hold the meeting telephonically.
If you have not yet received notice as to when your meeting will take place, you should expect delays. Many courts are operating with extremely limited staff and many employees who are non-essential are working from home. Those working from home who are parents are also having to manage their children’s schoolwork. While it is impossible to predict how long these delays will last, we would advise being prepared for closures of two months or more.
I Received Notice That I Need to Appear in Court: What Should I Do?
If you are interested in filing for bankruptcy, or you have already filed, you should not visit the court until absolutely necessary. Check the court’s website to see whether or not it is open to the public and allowing visitors. Many courts that are open are screening visitors to the court.
They will likely ask whether or not you have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of coronavirus. They may also ask whether you have symptoms described by the Centers for Disease Control. If you answer yes to any of the screener’s questions, you will not be permitted to the court building.
Do You Still Need to Pay the Filing Fee and File the Paperwork?
Debtors do need to continue paying their filing fees. They also should continue to abide by all of the relevant deadlines. They will need to submit all of their required paperwork on time, if at all possible. Even in these stressful times, it is still important to meet all of the deadlines so you do not risk slowing down your bankruptcy filing even further. You do not want to see your case dismissed by the court for missing a deadline. Stay on top of meeting all of the following deadlines:
- Filing payment deadlines
- Deadlines to cure any payment deficiencies
- Submission of course 2 certificates
- Deadlines to provide the bankruptcy trustees with requested documents
I Received Notice that My 341 Meeting is “Continued Until a Later Date”
What happens if you had a hearing or meeting scheduled and you have received a notice that your meeting has been continued? Your notice likely says that your new date is to be determined. If this happens to you, it is important to check your mail for any notices for updates. You may also be able to contact your trustee periodically to ask if they know when your new hearing date has been scheduled.
Will Coronavirus Delay My Discharge of Bankruptcy?
Unfortunately, the shutdowns caused by coronavirus will likely delay many discharges of bankruptcy. For example, if your 341 meetings have been rescheduled or continued until further notice, your discharge will be delayed. Bankruptcy courts cannot issue a discharge of debt unless you have met all of the requirements, including meetings with creditors.
You will likely need to wait to receive a notice in the mail regarding your case. If your meeting with creditors or 341 meetings has already taken place, be sure to check with your bankruptcy trustee and check your mail for updates.
What Happens to My Automatic Stay?
If the court has issued an automatic stay, it will continue to remain in place so long as your bankruptcy case has not been dismissed. There are a few exceptions to automatic stays. In other words, some creditors can request relief from an automatic stay. Creditors are more likely to lift the automatic stay in Chapter 13 bankruptcies than in Chapter 7 bankruptcies.
Do I Need to Sign an Affidavit of Debtor?
You may have received a document called an Affidavit of Debtor. Trustees or the court itself will send you this document so that you can verify your identity. You will need to notarize this form. You may have difficulty finding a notary due to business closures, so it is wise to not put this task off. Contact your trustee if you are unable to find a notary public. Be sure to mail this form back by the deadline as you do not want your case to become even more delayed.
Contact Our Experienced Georgia Bankruptcy Lawyers
If you have questions about your Georgia bankruptcy case or you are concerned about how coronavirus will affect your case, we can help. Contact our experienced Georgia bankruptcy lawyers as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can help guide you through the process.