There has never been a more convenient time to file for bankruptcy. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and until further notice, most court hearings and all 341(a) meeting of creditors are being conducted remotely by telephone. The 341(a) hearing is the mandatory court proceeding in which a court-appointed Trustee examines a debtor regarding his or her bankruptcy petition. The hearing is usually 4-6 weeks after the debtor files for bankruptcy. The name of the hearing “meeting of creditors” is potentially misleading, in that it is quite rare for a creditor to make an appearance at the hearing in a typical Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, a debtor would have to travel to court, wait on line to go through court security and then wait to be examined in the designated meeting room with the Trustee. As you can imagine, this can be a time consuming and stressful experience. However, since April and until further notice, the hearings are being conducted by telephone. That is right, by telephone, and not even by Zoom or Skype! The hearing is still conducted as if being in court, in that there is a calendar and you have to wait for your turn to be examined. Depending upon your position on the calendar, the examination itself is approximately 10-15 minutes long and you can expect the whole proceeding, with wait time, to last approximately 1 hour. However, the hearing could be longer depending upon the complexity of the other cases on the calendar.
Adjusting to the new remote court process, our law firm has been pro-active in guiding our clients through it. We provide our clients with detailed instructions on how to call into the meetings and what to expect. More importantly, prior to the hearing, we schedule and conduct remote court preparation meetings in which we review the range of possible questions that a Trustee may ask at the hearing. Unlike many law firms, we also don’t use per diem or outside attorneys to represent you at the hearing. From personally participating in many, many of these hearings, I am finding that our clients are some of the most prepared debtors at the meetings. This typically leads to a much smoother moving case. The trustee appreciates this as well.
From our perspective, the telephonic court hearings have been going remarkably well. We also know from our clients that participated in this remote process to date, that they prefer the telephonic court hearings as well, as opposed to having to physically go to court. In light of this, we are hopeful that the court will consider keeping telephonic hearings as an option after the Covid-19 pandemic ends, which we hope, is sooner rather than later. If you have any questions about filing for bankruptcy, please feel free to contact the Law Offices David I. Pankin, P.C. at (888) 529-9600 or use our easy online contact form. David I. Pankin has been fighting for consumers and small business owners as a New York bankruptcy attorney since 1995. He has helped over 12,000 consumers throughout New York City, Long Island, Westchester and upstate New York.