Within a few days of your Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition being filed a 341A hearing will be scheduled. This hearing is also referred as a 341A Meeting of Creditors. The United States Bankruptcy Code 11 USC § 341 is what authorizes this hearing. As the name suggests, creditors may attend this hearing and ask questions of you during this proceeding. In a vast majority of cases, however, no creditors attend. In a Chapter 13 hearing, secured creditors such as mortgage companies and the IRS are the most likely parties to appear on the creditor side.
Much like with a Chapter 7 341A hearing, the Chapter 13 341A hearing is usually scheduled approximately (1) month from the date of filing. Each of the 3 Bankruptcy venues in New Jersey (Newark, Camden & Trenton) only have one Chapter 13 Trustee. They are referred to as a Chapter 13 Standing Trustee. Each of the three trustees will conduct their 341A hearings on one particular day each week. For example, the trustee for Trenton only conducts his 341A hearings on Thursday. Hearings can be scheduled for as early as 9:00 a.m. and most case lists will end with a start time no later than 2:00 p.m.
You will receive notice of this hearing date/time within approximately one week from the date of your filing. Your attorney should receive the hearing notice within two days of your petition filing. Despite receiving your notice directly from the court, your attorney should also be providing you with the date and time of your hearing.
Your hearing will not be conducted in a courtroom setting. Rather, Chapter 13 341A hearings are conducted in the private office of the trustee. You will need to have both a photo ID and proof of Social Security number at the time of your hearing.
Chapter 13 hearings tend to take longer than its counterpart, the Chapter 7 341A hearing. While most hearings will take far less, it is fair to estimate a hearing taking close to 15 minutes or so to complete. If one has filed a joint petition, both parties must attend the hearing and both will be expected to answer each question posed during the hearing. Your attorney will be seated directly to your side throughout the entire proceeding. Notwithstanding this, you will be the one expected to answer the questions. Be sure you have closely reviewed your entire petition and Chapter 13 plan prior to the actual hearing. This is not an open book test.
Outside of the hearing room(s) there will be an area to be seated. This is where you will be able to meet with your attorney and discuss any remaining issues. You may attend your hearing with your friends or family but they will not be permitted inside of the hearing room itself. The room will be designated for the trustee, yourself, your attorney and any creditors that might appear.
The questions that can be posed during the hearing can vary greatly. I generally will go over a likely “skeleton” of questions with my client in my office to see how they do. From there I will go over any of the issues contained within the client’s petition and formulate questions concerning any such issues.
Good eye contact throughout the hearing is needed. If you don’t understand the questions asked, you should request the trustee to clarify the question. Never guess! This is likely your only appearance in the case so prepare for it accordingly. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. A good law firm will closely go over all of this and more with you. Be prepared, stay relaxed and your hearing will be over before you know it.