Before the pandemic, bankruptcy court hearings were conducted in person at the federal
courthouse. You had to deal with parking, child care, etc., and all of us had a long wait in court
for other hearings to be finished. All of this meant missing work or missing some other
productive activity. For first-timers, it could also be very stressful.
When the pandemic hit, we went to telephonic hearings to keep people from getting sick.
It was so convenient and successful that no one really wanted to go back to the old ways, and we
haven’t. All you do now on assigned hearings is call an 800 number from anywhere (home, work,
etc.), enter the given “access code”, and you are in a brief “meeting” (court hearing). Your lawyer
participates in the meeting on the telephone from his office. This is true for all kinds of hearings
today. It is convenient and much less stressful than before.
Very little that was any good came out of the Covid 19 pandemic. However, for a number
of months, there were moratoriums on court hearings and foreclosures in state court, so that those
debt collection proceedings almost came to a complete halt. However, if something seems too
good to be true, it probably is. The moratorium on debt collection was just temporary. Debt
collection proceedings have started up again, and are gaining momentum. Government stimulus
programs have lost steam, and so have state programs having to do with mortgage and rent
Even so, there is still very real help if you are overwhelmed with debt. Under federal
bankruptcy law, Chapter 13 is a debt consolidation repayment plan that lasts up to five years. It
stops foreclosures, repossessions, lawsuits, and garnishments instantaneously. It is used to force
secured creditors to allow the debtor to cure defaults overtime under the protection of the federal
court. In many cases, unsecured debt is paid less than in full, making payments much cheaper.
Chapter 13 does not put property at risk of being sold by a trustee.
Chapter 7 also stops debt collection activity, and there is no repayment of debt through
the court system. In most Chapter 7’s, debtors keep and continue to pay for cars and real estate
on their own (provided there is not large equity in any property, and that must be checked before
deciding to file). Your budget should show that you do not have the resources to pay the debt
that you are asking the court to “discharge” (wipe out without payment).
A Chapter 7 will not force secured creditors to allow a debtor to catch up on defaults.
Therefore, you will want to be up to date with your payments, or close to it, on secured debt that
you want to “reaffirm” (keep the property and continue to pay). In Chapter 7, general unsecured
debt is wiped out without payment.
Before filing any case, we still prefer to meet clients in person because the exchange of
information tends to be much better in a face-to-face setting. We don’t charge for anything unless
a case is actually filed. If a case is filed, we bend over backwards to make fees affordable.
Please call us at 770-683-3303 or leave a message on our website to give us an overview
of your situation. We have many years of experience, and we want to help with your questions.
We’ll communicate with you and set up an in-person appointment if that is appropriate. We try
our best always to have a live person answer the phone. Please feel free to contact us.
H. Brooks Cotten