Within two weeks after your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case is filed, a notice will go out to all of the creditors listed in your bankruptcy schedules. You will receive a copy of the same notice. That Chapter 7 bankruptcy notice informs the creditors that they can no longer take any actions to collect their debt outside of allowed bankruptcy procedures. Any action to foreclose on your home, repossess an automobile, collect a civil judgment or garnish wages must immediately be stopped.
The Chapter 7 case notice will also provide to you notice of your first court hearing, which is called the First Meeting of Creditors. Each debtor must attend the meeting of creditors for their case to move forward. This hearing will take place in the meeting of creditors room located at the Bankruptcy Court in Augusta, Georgia. Your attorney will meet you at the courthouse fifteen minutes prior to your scheduled hearing time to answer any last minute questions you may have.
At the meeting of creditors, the Chapter 7 Trustee will be present to ask questions about all of your bankruptcy schedules and statements that were filed. You are required to answer these questions under oath. You are also required to bring with you a picture ID and social security card. If you do not have those documents, your meeting will be rescheduled until you are able to produce those documents. This hearing usually occurs thirty to forty-five days from the date you file your bankruptcy case, and usually lasts anywhere from ten to thirty minutes.
Any of your creditors are free to attend the meeting of creditors. The creditors are allowed to ask questions about the bankruptcy schedules and your financial circumstances. Most of the time, no creditors appear at the Chapter 7 meeting of creditors. The creditors that usually appear often are lenders who hold a security interest in a home or a car. When they appear, they are seeking information about their collateral including the current condition, the status of payments, your intent to maintain payments, and the status of insurance.
In the event you intend to keep a house or a car that is pledged as collateral to a creditor, you will often have to sign a reaffirmation agreement. Any reaffirmation agreements will be reviewed with you in detail to assure that all the information is correct. A reaffirmation agreement means that you intend to treat the loan as if you have never filed bankruptcy. That means that you are entitled to keep the car, house, or other collateral and continue making regular payments on those items. However, it also means that in the event you default on your payment obligations after your discharge, the creditor can not only repossess the collateral, but could potentially seek to collect the deficiency through a wage garnishment in the event the collateral is sold for less than the debt owed. If you are considering a reaffirmation agreement for any obligation, please discuss it carefully with your attorney so that you understand all of the consequences of having that obligation not discharged in your bankruptcy case.
If the Chapter 7 Trustee needs additional information regarding your bankruptcy case, he may reschedule subsequent hearings after the first meeting of creditors. You are responsible for attending all subsequent hearings and providing any additional information requested by the Chapter 7 Trustee. Failure to comply with the requirements can cause you to lose your bankruptcy discharge. In most cases, the meeting of creditors is the only hearing a Chapter 7 debtor will have to attend. Often, our attorneys can handle and subsequent hearings without you having to take time of work to attend. If you are surrendering property such as a home or car, there will likely be additional motions filed by creditors seeking permission to begin foreclosure proceedings or to take possession of automobiles. In most cases, the Debtor will not have to attend those hearings.
Any creditor wishing to object to your receiving a bankruptcy discharge generally has six months to file what is called an adversary proceeding. Adversary proceedings are not filed in very many cases. The initial Chapter 7 case notice provides creditors with a deadline in which they must file any objections to your bankruptcy discharge. Once that deadline passes, creditors are barred from filing any actions to deny your discharge. If you have complied with all other requirements at that time, the Court will issue a Discharge Order.
After the conclusion of your first meeting of creditors, you are required to file with the Bankruptcy Court a certificate indicating that you have completed your post-petition financial management course. You may begin the post-petition financial management course immediately after the Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is filed. In the event you do not complete that course or do not provide to us a certificate showing that you have completed that course, the court may close your case without granting you a bankruptcy discharge. If that happens, we can file a motion to reopen your case to obtain a discharge, but significant additional court costs and attorney's fees would apply. Once the Court issues your discharge order, your case is generally closed.
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