Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Process
Steps for filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Southeast and Mid-Michigan
Unlike many other types of legal proceedings, instead of two parties to a case, bankruptcy involves you, the debtor, on one side against an army of banks, other creditors and their attorneys on the other side. Our office specializes in bankruptcy. We are experienced in handling complex legal matters under the Bankruptcy Code.
The typical Chapter 7 Bankruptcy takes a minimum of 4 months and involves the following important steps.
Step 1: Bankruptcy consultation
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy helps many people get a fresh start. However, it is not a solution for everyone. To determine whether you are eligible to file for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and whether bankruptcy will accomplish your goals, it is important to seek advice from a bankruptcy attorney who practices in the court for your area.
We provide free bankruptcy consultations to clients at our Port Huron and Royal Oak offices. An initial consultation is the first step in the bankruptcy process.
Step 2: Retainer appointment
Once our office has determined that you are eligible for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and that the protection you are seeking from your creditors is available under Chapter 7, a retainer appointment is needed to review the terms of our representation. At this appointment, we will begin preparing your bankruptcy documents. We will order a credit report for you and help you to prepare a written statement of your monthly budget. We will then provide you with a referral to a licensed, non-profit credit counseling service.
Step 3: Pre-bankruptcy credit counseling
The Bankruptcy Code requires that you have a consultation with a credit counseling service before filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. The credit counseling agency will discuss your income and living expenses along with money saving ideas to help you in the future. You are then issued a credit counseling certificate that is valid for 6 months. This certificate serves as an "admission ticket" to the Bankruptcy Court and allows our office to file your Chapter 7 case.
Step 4: Signing appointment
As you are completing credit counseling, our office will be preparing your final bankruptcy documents. This process can be completed very quickly for an emergency bankruptcy filing, if needed. However, to be sure that your information remains accurate, we request that the signing appointment is scheduled no later than one month from your Retainer Appointment.
At the Signing Appointment, you will review a series of documents our office will have prepared for filing your bankruptcy case. These documents summarize your assets, your debts, your income, your living expenses, and major financial transactions for you over the last two years. By signing these documents, you will authorize us to file your case with the Bankruptcy Court. Having an experienced bankruptcy attorney prepare your bankruptcy petition and related bankruptcy documents ensures that your assets and income are protected and that your bills are properly discharged in bankruptcy.
Step 5: Notifying your creditors
Your bankruptcy case will be filed with the United States Bankruptcy Court after your Signing Appointment. Your case will then be assigned a Case Number by the Bankruptcy Court. This is your proof that you have filed for bankruptcy. If any creditor calls you after your case is filed, you can provide them with your Case Number, and the harassing phone calls should stop. However, the Bankruptcy Court will also send written notice of your bankruptcy to all of your creditors.
Step 6: Meeting of Creditors
After your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is filed, the Bankruptcy Court will assign a Chapter 7 Trustee to your case. This individual acts like watchdog for your creditors and conducts a hearing called a Meeting of Creditors at the Bankruptcy Court. The Meeting of Creditors typically happens about one month after your case is filed. Attorney Scott Zochowski attends all Meetings of Creditors with our clients. Scott has over 10 years of experience representing bankruptcy clients in cases assigned to every one of the Chapter 7 Trustees on the Bankruptcy Court’s panel of Trustees for the Eastern District of Michigan.
At the meeting, our office will review your financial records and asset information with the Chapter 7 Trustee. In some instances, the Trustee may require more than one court appearance, to provide additional financial information. However, for most clients, the Meeting of Creditors is their only trip to court.
Following the Meeting of Creditors, creditors and the Trustee have approximately 60 days to file objections and take other steps in your case. Our office will work with the Trustee and your creditors during this time to ensure that your rights are protected.
Step 7: Debtor education course
A second credit counseling component is required to be completed by all Chapter 7 debtors within 45 days after their Meeting of Creditors. Our office will refer you to a licensed credit counseling agency to complete the debtor education program. You will watch some video clips online about managing your finances, answer questions related to the videos, and receive another certificate from the credit counseling agency. Our office then files your certificate with the Bankruptcy Court.
Step 8: Chapter 7 Discharge
If there are no other legal disputes in your case, and if you complete your credit counseling on time, the earliest you would receive a Chapter 7 Discharge Order from the Bankruptcy Court is 60 days after your Meeting of Creditors. Not everyone is entitled to a Bankruptcy Discharge, and not all debts are automatically discharged in bankruptcy (child support obligations, for example, are not discharged). Your Discharge Order, signed by a federal bankruptcy judge, will be forwarded to all of your creditors. This is usually the final step in your Chapter 7 case. A bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for another 10 years after your filing.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy can offer you a fresh start. Let our office assist you to use that fresh start to its full potential.