Not a client?
In this section I try to answer a few common types of client questions:
How do I send Chapter 13 payments?
Where am I supposed to go?
What is this thing I got in the mail?
What should I do if I need to borrow money while I’m in Chapter 13?
Clients: If the information below doesn’t answer your question, you can always contact me.
Chapter 13 Payments
Let’s get a handle on the Chapter 13 payments issue: It is the #1 reason why Chapter 13 cases fail, and that’s often due to confusion about simple questions: Who, What, When, Where and How?
Who’s Making the Payments?
Payroll Deduction: If you work and can have payroll deduction, your Chapter 13 payments can be deducted by your employer and sent directly to the Trustee, automatically. This is a very convenient way to make sure your payments are made every month. However, some employers are better than others about complying with the notices they receive from the Trustee about deductions. It’s ultimately your responsibility to make sure the payments are made.
Keep an eye on your paystubs and check to see if it shows a deduction for your bankruptcy payment. Hang onto a copy of that pay stub. It will serve as some proof that your payments are being deducted, even if the Trustee hasn’t received the payment yet (it takes a few days for the Trustee to receive sent payments).
The first payment is due to the Trustee 30 days after the date you filed. If you do not see the deductions in your paystubs after a reasonable time, talk to your payroll department (I will be happy to help you with this). You may need to send in one payment yourself if it’s taking a while for payroll deduction to be set up, but let’s talk about that before you send in a payment. You probably can’t afford to send a double payment!
Direct Payment: If you aren’t able to have payroll deduction, you will need to send payments to the Trustee on your own. You can do that in two basic ways: regular mail or online payments.
Where & How?
Mailing a payment: Send a money order or cashier’s check to the Trustee for the amount of your Chapter 13 payment. Always make sure your case number is noted somewhere on the face of the money order or cashier’s check! Your case number is a unique account number and will make sure that your payments do not get lost, sent back to you, or deposited into someone else’s case. These are bad things! Also keep your money order receipt. That will allow us, or the Trustee, to trace the money order if it should go missing. For Savannah and Statesborto cases, send your payments to:
Chapter 13 Trustee, Savannah
P.O. Box 116561
Atlanta, GA 30368-6561
What & When?
Chapter 13 payments should be made monthly. The first payment is due 30 days after you filed your case.
This will usually be the amount proposed in your plan at the time you filed the case. Sometimes the payment will need to increase, either to pay claims that were higher than anticipated, to cure delinquency in your case, or to resolve an objection raised by the Trustee or a creditor. If your plan payment needs to change we’ll obviously discuss that before it happens. If you are ever unsure of the amount you should be paying, you know what to do.
Your bankruptcy plan requires payments for a certain number of months, called the “plan term.” It can be up to 60 months, or it can sometimes be for “a minimum of 36 months,” meaning it could be exactly 36 months if the payment amount is enough to pay everything in that time, or else for as long as it takes (up to five years) to pay all of the claims. Most people prefer a longer plan term over a higher payment.
So are we good on payment issues? Make sure you also know what that payment does and does not cover. Chapter 13 payments might not cover things like your mortgage, car or domestic support payments. If you ever have a question about that, contact me.
Directions & Parking
For directions to my office, see the Contact tab.
Meeting of Creditors
Fortunately, creditor meetings are now held telephonically, so you do not need to attend those meetings in person. After you file a case you will receive notification from the Clerk of Court advising the date and time for your meeting, and including a dial-in number and pass code.
Savannah Court Hearings
All Court hearings (but not a “meeting of creditors”) assigned to the Savannah Division are held at the U.S. Courthouse on Telfair Square:
124 Barnard Street,
Savannah, GA 31401
There is no parking at the courthouse.
Parking in Savannah
Parking in Savannah can be a challenge. This link provides a comprehensive list.
Give yourself plenty of time if you are unfamiliar with the area. If you are totally new to the area, not good with directions, or just a worrier, let me know ahead of time. We’ll get through this!
Statesboro: All Meetings & Hearings
All bankruptcy matters assigned to the Statesboro Division are handled at the same location:
52 North Main Street
Statesboro, GA 30458
This location has free onsite parking.
There is a security check at this location, and Court Security Officers will probably ask you to leave your cell phone in your vehicle.
13 Really Really Important Things
Please let me know right away if any of these events apply to you – now or at any time while your bankruptcy case is open:
1.) You change your mailing address or other contact information.
2.) Your vehicle is involved in an accident, and insurance will be paid to the lienholder.
3.) You are involved in an accident where you may have a personal injury claim.
4.) You have a loss of employment, are “laid off” or furloughed from your job.
5.) You change jobs or have any significant change in income.
6.) You win the lottery.
7.) You have been sued.
8.) Any creditors you owed money to before you filed this case continue to contact you, try to collect money from you, or continue any lawsuits against you.
9.) You or someone in your family has a serious illness.
10.) You want to file a lawsuit, if it involves divorce, matters involving personal or property injury (including workers compensation), or any other legal action outside of Bankruptcy Court.
11.) You want to buy a house or a car, or borrow money for any purpose.
12.) You want to sell, refinance or give away any of the property that you currently own.
13.) Someone passes away and leaves you an inheritance (including money, land, property or a trust) or life insurance proceeds.
"What's this thing I got in the mail?!"
Once you file bankruptcy, you will receive various notices about your case (but no more demands for payment from creditors).
The first thing you will probably receive is the Notice of Bankruptcy Case from the Bankruptcy Court. The notice is sent to you and to all of the creditors that you listed. It sets various deadlines and dates, at least one of which will be very important to you: The date, time and location when you need to appear at the meeting of creditors.
The “meeting of creditors” isn’t perhaps the best description. It’s the meeting where you must attend and creditors can attend if they want to (but aren’t required to and usually don’t). In 90% or more of the cases, the Trustee will ask you questions about your case, under oath.It’s the Trustee’s opportunity to run through the information you provided when you filed the case, to make sure that it was accurate and complete, and to be sure that you are who you say you are (don’t forget your photo ID and proof of Social Security number).
If you are in a Chapter 13 case, the Notice from the Court will also list the time and date of your confirmation hearing. The confirmation hearing is where the Bankruptcy Judge will hopefully approve or “confirm” your bankruptcy plan. When a plan is confirmed, that means that if you make all of the payments under that plan, you will get a discharge at the end of your case, and creditors are bound by the treatment in the plan. It’s an important event.
Before a case can be confirmed, there is a checklist of important conditions including:
Has the Trustee received plan payments?
Is the plan proposed in good faith? Are you making your best effort to pay as much as you can to creditors?
Is the case “feasible”? Will you be able to make the proposed payments?
Are the creditors getting as much as they would receive in a Chapter 7 liquidation case?
Have you filed all required tax returns for the past four years?
Have you made all required domestic support payments since you filed the bankruptcy case?
If one or more of these conditions are not met on the confirmation hearing date the Court and Trustee will usually allow the hearing to be continued, provided plan payments are being made.
Do you need to go to your confirmation hearing? First of all, you are welcome to attend your hearing, but if your case is in good shape there will not be an actual “hearing” and the Trustee will announce that the case is recommended for approval, or else will request a continuance if we still have some issues to work through. About a week before the confirmation hearing I should know whether your attendance is required. I may need your help to resolve certain objections. If the Trustee does not have a payment in your case by the hearing date this is a big problem, and I’ll need your help to resolve it!
Objections to confirmation. You may receive an objection from the Trustee or a creditor. Many times, an objection is a “to do” list, formally listing what needs to be done before the case can be confirmed. You’re probably already well aware of the situation. Creditor objections are usually about the treatment proposed in the plan. They may want a concession on the interest rate, monthly payment, or valuation of the claim in the plan. These are the most common reasons for objection, and they can usually be resolved by negotiation without the need for a hearing.
Motion to dismiss. If you received a motion to dismiss in the mail, there is a 99% chance it was filed by the Chapter 13 Trustee due to delinquency in your bankruptcy payments. A “motion” is a request to the Court, so that does not mean your case is dismissed yet. It does mean that we need to respond to the motion right away. I need to hear from you to understand what has caused the delinquency. If this is the first motion to dismiss filed in your case the Trustee will nearly always be willing to resolve the issue with a “consent order” that will help you get the case back on track.
Let’s not wait for the motion to dismiss: If the Chapter 13 payments are a hardship for you, contact me so that we can review your case. It’s usually possible to modify your plan to make adjustments that could lower the payment. We can review and discuss all of the options. It’s a much better idea to review the situation before you get seriously delinquent in your plan payments.
Motion for relief from stay. These motions are filed by creditors asking the Court to “lift” the automatic stay so that it does not apply to the creditor. If the Court lifts the stay that would allow the creditor to continue certain activity, such as foreclosing on a home or repossessing a car. You may have already planned to surrender those items, and if that’s the case, we may have no opposition to the creditor’s request. If you intend to keep the property that the motion addresses it will be necessary to respond to the motion, or else you could lose that property! I’ll need to hear from you so that we can review the situation and respond to the motion. If the payments are covered by your Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan, proof that you are current in your Chapter 13 may resolve the issue; if you are paying the creditor directly it will be important to have proof that you have made those payments.
If you have questions about these or any other notices that you receive about your bankruptcy case, please contact me.
What if I need to borrow money while I’m in Chapter 13?
When your Chapter 13 plan is confirmed the Court will forbid you from getting new credit until you receive permission from either the Court or Trustee. The Trustee has authority to approve requests for new debt.
If you need to incur debt, contact me. We’ll go over the information necessary in order to submit the request to the Trustee. The most common types of loans include:
Vehicles. Vehicles don’t last forever. They can be damaged beyond repair or wrecked. If you need a new vehicle the Trustee will usually allow you to buy one, within certain limits. We’ll need to submit information about the proposed vehicle, and updated information about your employment and budget. If your old vehicle has been wrecked and you still owe a debt, contact me right away! We’ll need to do some work on that claim, including treatment in the Chapter 13 plan and handling any insurance proceeds.
Loan modifications. Loan modifications are a good thing! But they need to be reviewed and approved by the Trustee or Bankruptcy Court. I can help you submit the request and will need to review your case and consider whether any adjustments need to be made to your Chapter 13 plan or claim.
Student loans. If you are continuing your education and loan repayment will not impact your bankruptcy payments, the Trustee will usually approve these requests.
Other loans. The Trustee has already been asked about virtually any type of loan you can imagine, and there is probably already a process and even a form for submitting the request. Contact me. We’ll get the information together and submit the request.
Get Court Bankruptcy Notices Electronically
By default, you’ll get Court notices about your case by the U.S. Mail. If that’s the way you prefer to get important information, you’re all set. If you would prefer to receive electronic notices from the Court, you can arrange for electronic notices. Note that this only covers notices from the Court, not from creditors or the Trustee, which you will still receive by regular mail. You can sign up at this link.
Keep track of the information in your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case
Clients are always welcome to call me with any questions about their cases. Some of you do-it-yourselfers might want to monitor the information directly, which you can do thanks to the National Data Center. This free resource allows you to track information in your bankruptcy case and can answer many of your questions. You can sign up at this link.
You hired a lawyer – use him!
Do you have other questions? Has someone told you to make a payment and the information doesn’t sound right? Are creditors continuing to call you? If you are uncertain about anything, remember that you have hired a professional to represent you. Don’t go it alone!
If creditors continue to harass you, I can contact them and make sure this stops.
You should also be aware that there are many clever people running scams out there. Some of them are very persuasive and can seem like a legitimate creditor. Be suspicious of any calls or notices telling you to send payments to a new address! It’s a lot easier to check with me first than it will be to try and get that money back.
I never charge a client extra for contacting me with a question about his or her case. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Please keep a copy or make a note of any information that you receive so that I can review it.