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What Will Happen at Your First Bankruptcy Court Hearing

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Fortunately, your first bankruptcy court hearing will likely be very brief. For a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, you basically just need your driver's license, proof of social security, court paperwork (which will be mailed to you in the run up to the hearing date), and any other paperwork that your attorney recommends. Your hearing should last about five minutes, and the trustee (not a judge) will ask a few basic questions about your history and your financial situation.

These questions will include enquiries about where you live, how much property you have (both real estate and other property), your total list of assets and liabilities, and whether or not you are planning to file a lawsuit against another person or party for bodily injury. In addition, the trustee will ask whether you expect to inherit cash from a relative or other source within an upcoming timeframe. Your attorney will be next to you the entire time, and no creditors will appear during your Chapter 7 hearing.

For Chapter 13 bankruptcy hearings, the situation will be nearly the same. You will be asked all the same questions you would be if you were filing for Chapter 7 in addition to questions related to the payment program you have worked out under the Chapter 13 agreement. Some creditors may show up at your Chapter 13 bankruptcy hearing, but they will not be able to communicate with you in an adversarial way. They will merely be there to get information from the trustee regarding their rights and responsibilities during the bankruptcy.

After two to three months (60 to 90 days), you will be asked to return to bankruptcy court to finish the official discharge order -- freeing you permanently of your responsibility to pay off certain bills to creditors and lenders. Remember that it's critical to show up at your hearing. If you fail to arrive on time, the bankruptcy court may dismiss your case out of hand, although it's possible for your attorney to file for a continuance under certain situations. You may have to pay your attorney an extra fee for filing for the continuance and showing up again at court for your rescheduled hearing.

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