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Bankruptcy is not a game

Posted by Peter Behrmann, Esq. On February 21st

Bankruptcy GameYesterday, I was sitting at a Bankruptcy 341 meeting with my clients in Detroit watching a hearing prior to our case being called.  We got a real show, an individual that obviously was not prepared by his attorney on how the bankruptcy and 341 process goes.   This individual sat down at the table, his face was red and he was obviously mad that he was even there.  Now don’t get me wrong, no one wants to be at bankruptcy court; however, your bankruptcy hearing which is usually a quick five minute hearing is basically the last step you have to take in becoming debt free.


As the hearing with this individual progressed, it was obvious that he was simply not listening to the questions the Trustee was asking him.  The Trustee who was beginning to also become flustered with this individual finally asked what seemed like a simple yes or no question.  “Have you destroyed any of the books and papers of your business?”  The individual continuing his uncooperative nature answered that question “I have the last seven years of books and papers for the business.”  The Trustee then again asked the individual to listen to his question, and again asked “Have you destroyed any books and papers of the business?”  Again, the individual responded “I have the last seven years.”   The Trustee and the individual then went back in forth for several moments before the individual disclosed that he has recently discarded all paperwork that was over seven years old.


As the hearing progressed further the combativeness continued and the Trustee eventually pointed out on the record that the individual was not listening to the questions, not providing him with correct answers, and “not scoring any points with the way he was acting.”  To even my surprise, the individual responded to the Trustee that he did not realize that this was a game that he was trying to score points for.


Now, thankfully I have never had a client act this rude at a hearing before.  Perhaps it is because I sit down with each of my clients prior to the hearing and go over with them what is going to happen:

  • The first thing that is going to happen is both you and me are going to sit down at the table, you will be sworn in where you will promise that you will tell the truth.
  • Next, I put my appearance on the record and I will ask you to verify your bankruptcy petition signatures where you will testify that you read and reviewed the bankruptcy paperwork prior to it being filed with the court and the information contained in your bankruptcy paperwork is truthful and accurate. 
  • Finally, the Trustee and any of your creditors will have the opportunity to ask you questions regarding the information that is in your bankruptcy paperwork.  You have a duty to cooperate with the Trustee and answer the questions truthfully.


Now simply by following this most of my bankruptcy hearings last less than five minutes.  Whereas the hearing for the above individual went over twenty minuets and will mostly be drawn out in a further hearing under section 2004 of the Bankruptcy Code.  Worse, if this individual continues his combative nature he may not even receive his bankruptcy discharge, the entire purpose for him even being there in the first place.    You see Section 521 (a) (3) of the bankruptcy code require debtors to “cooperate with the trustee as necessary to enable the trustee to perform the trustee’s duties under this title.” If you as a debtor do not cooperate with the Trustee, the trustee may ask the bankruptcy court to deny the relief you are seeking, specifically to deny your bankruptcy discharge.  Simply put bankruptcy is not a game, and if you treat it as such you will come out on the losing end. 


Peter Behrmann is a Livonia Bankruptcy Attorney.  From my Livonia, Michigan location, I represent clients throughout Metro Detroit and beyond, including Garden City, Wayne, Westland, Redford, Dearborn, Taylor, Ann Arbor, Belleville, Northville, Novi, Farmington, Farmington Hills, Plymouth, Canton, and the Counties of Wayne, Oakland, Livingston, and Washtenaw. My practice is limited to helping consumers like you file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy


Image Credit to: garlandcannon

3 Responses

  1. Kenneth Embry Says:

    This is a very interesting Tid Bit, however it seems more of a testament to bad lawyering than bad behavior by the debtor…

    Posted on February 22nd, 2013 at 11:56 am

  2. Peter Behrmann, Esq. Says:

    I do not personally know the Attorney that was representing the Debtor, perhaps a little of both. However it was obvious that the Debtor did not understand that point of the 341 process or his responsibilities.

    Posted on February 25th, 2013 at 4:28 pm

  3. Cate Eranthe Says:

    Interesting difference in geographic area. Our trustees ask ALL the questions. The attorney just makes her appearance and speaks up as needed. Usually we have little to say.

    Posted on February 26th, 2013 at 1:25 pm

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