Court systems across the nation have been modifying what cases are being heard, rescheduled or heard via electronic means. The Federal Bankruptcy Courts have been monitoring closely the recommended guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO), and local public health officials regarding coronavirus (COVID-19). The federal judiciary is updating this chart twice daily to reflect the latest status for each district.
Most hearings are being changed to telephonic hearings. If you have a hearing coming up in your case, keep an eye out for notices from the court or your attorney about whether it’s going to be rescheduled or how to call in for the hearing. At the moment all in person 341 meetings scheduled through April 10th, 2020 have been moved to a later date that is yet to be determined, per the United States Department Of Justice, Trustee Program site. Absent special circumstances, section 341 meetings may not proceed during this period except through telephonic or other alternative means not requiring personal appearance by debtors. Appropriate notice will be provided to parties in accordance with bankruptcy law and rules. If you have any question or concerns about this, please contact your attorney or trustee directly.
What Should I Expect?
Expect delays! Court are currently still open but operating with limited staff and as remotely as possible. All non-essential cases have been postponed until further notice, and the hearing that are taking place are being done via phone or video conference.
Can I Still File Bankruptcy?
Yes, at this time you can still file for bankruptcy. All 341 meetings are being scheduled past April 10th at this time or notice will be given once a date is set.
What To Expect At Court?
Until further notice, you should not go to court unless absolutely necessary and told to do so by your attorney, trustee or courthouse staff.
Do I Still Have To Pay A Filing Fee?
Yes. Debtors are still responsible for paying fees in accordance with set deadlines
Do I Still Have To Get My Paperwork In On Time?
Yes. Debtors are still required to abide by deadlines and submit required paperwork on time.
My 341 Meeting Was Schedule Between March 16th & April 10th. What Should I Do?
As of March 16th, most courts have suspended in person 341 meetings and instead are conducting meetings via telephone. Your attorney, court or your trustee will provide a phone number, access code and security code along with specific instructions on what to do on the call. Each trustee may have different procedures to conduct these telephone meetings. Contact your attorney or trustee for more information.
Do not wait for the court or your trustee to contact you. Stay informed by checking the court’s website and contact your trustee well in advance of your meeting so they can explain the call instructions and answer any questions you may have about the procedure.
I Received An “Affidavit Of Debtor” Regarding A Telephonic Hearing. Do I Need To Sign It?
Yes. If your 341 meeting is occurring telephonically, this is how the courts are verifying identity. The trustee has a duty to check your identity at a 341 meeting and that’s hard to do when the 341 meeting is taking place via telephone or video conference, your trustee or the court may send you an “Affidavit of Debtor” or similar form to verify your identity.
Note that these affidavits must be notarized. You must bring your ID and proof of social security with you to the notary. Many businesses are closed so you may have some difficulty finding a notary in your area, so don’t wait until the last day to take care of this requirement as it may delay your case even further. If you have any trouble finding a notary public, contact your trustee as soon as possible.
I Received Notice That My 341 Meeting Is Continued Until A Later Date To Be Determined. What Does That Mean?
If you had a meeting schedule between March 16th and April 10th and received notice that your meeting was continued. If the notice doesn’t list a new date, then your date has not been decided yet by the court. Schedules at present are fluid, and some hearings are being held until more information is know about the timeline for COVID-19 and when court can resume. Just continue to hold and check your mail for notices. You can contact your attorney or trustee periodically to see if they know if a new date is scheduled.
Will This Delay My Discharge?
Potentially. You cannot receive a discharge until after a 341 meeting has been conducted. If 341 meetings are being rescheduled or continued until further notice, then that will delay the discharge. If your 341 meeting has already taken place, check your court notices for updates or check in with your trustee.
I Just Filed. Will My 341 Meeting Be Scheduled?
The courts are keeping debtors updated on upcoming scheduled meetings. There will likely be delays in scheduling meetings and the courts are hearing limited cases and working with reduced staff.
Will This Affect My Automatic Stay?
No. Other than the exceptions to the automatic stay, the automatic stay remains in place as long the case has not been dismissed.
The nation, courts, trustees, attorneys and individuals are all trying to figure out how to function in the face of COVID-19. We are currently in a period of flux, but the courts and attorneys are working to put processes in place to make sure that debtor’s rights are protected and we can attempt to function normally. If you have concerns or specific questions regarding filing bankruptcy or an ongoing bankruptcy case at this time, please contact our office and we will assist in setting a plan.