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I have filed my chapter 13 bankruptcy; now what happens?

Okay, so you have signed your petition, and your attorney has filed it with the court. Now what? Well, in New Jersey, the next thing that happens is that a meeting with your trustee is scheduled, usually for a date about 30 days from your filing date. A document called a Notice of Commencement of case is then mailed out by the courts to all your creditors, your attorney, and you, containing, among other things, the date and time of your hearing. Once you receive this notice, you can reasonably conclude that your creditors have as well, and you should advise your attorney of any contact by creditors after that to try and collect the debt.

The Meeting with the Trustee

I usually send a letter to my clients setting forth the information needed to be brought to that meeting, including:

  • Government-issued Photo ID
  • Proof of Social Security Number (either a Social Security card, W-2, or 1099)
  • Most recent paystub
  • 90 days worth of bank statements going back from your date of filing

You also need to file what is called a Tax Declaration Form, which your attorney will give you to sign, prior to this meeting. This either tells the trustee that all of your tax returns have been filed to date, or which ones are not filed and why. In this way, the trustee is alerted as to any tax issues in your case. If the trustee requests any additional information or documentation, this must be supplied to him/her before your plan can be confirmed.

Your First Plan Payment

Your first payment under your plan is due the first day of the month following the filing of your petition. However, oftentimes the petition is filed at the end of the month, which doesn't give you much time (or money, if your mortgage payment is also due on the first of the month). However, if you are unable to do this, as long as it is made within 30 days of your petition being filed (and every 30 days thereafter), you should be fine.

Confirmation Hearing for Your Plan

The next step is the Confirmation Hearing. This is where your plan comes up for court approval. Your appearance is seldom required, as it is usual for your attorney to appear on your behalf. However, prior to that hearing, you will need to sign a document called a Pre-Confirmation Certification of Compliance. This states that you have filed all necessary tax returns and are current on any payments of alimony and/or child support that fell due after you filed your bankruptcy. Your plan cannot be confirmed without it.

Taking the Financial Management Class

Finally, although you have until the end of your plan to do so, it is best to take your Financial Management (aka Debtor Education) class from an approved vendor now and get the certificate, so you get it over with and do not have to remember years later.  There may be other things that need to be done in your case post-filing, so you should be sure to follow up with your attorney for any other steps you need to take.