Do I have to explain to the judge why I’m in bankruptcy?
What if the judge makes a plan I can’t pay?
When you’re considering bankruptcy, you start to think about your upcoming encounter with a federal bankruptcy judge.
Black robes. Sober face. Gobs of power over your finances.
It can be unnerving.
Relax. Chances are, you’ll never even meet a bankruptcy judge in the flesh.
You’ll collect the judge’s signature on the important orders in your case, but you’ll never come face to face.
Job of a bankruptcy judge
Think of the bankruptcy judge as an umpire. He enforces the rules of the game and decides disputes. Safe? Out?
He has no role in drawing up the lineup nor choosing strategy. He just makes the call when the action moves to his courtroom.
If you are a debtor (the person who has filed a bankruptcy case) the opposing team, so to speak, is the trustee and perhaps creditors in your case.
They have interests that may be different from yours.
When a dispute arises in your case that the parties can’t settle, the judge will hear the matter and make a ruling.
But until a dispute moves to the courtroom, the judge doesn’t know your case exists.
When the judge is involved
The judge signs the most important document in your bankruptcy case, the discharge. That’s the court order that says that your dischargeable debts are henceforth unenforceable.
Unless some party has challenged your right to a discharge, the judge’s signature is automatic. He doesn’t pull your file, sift through your financial life, or speculate on whether bankruptcy was necessary.
If those with close-up information about your situation, like the trustee in your case, and the people you owe money haven’t complained, there’s no dispute for him to resolve.
Standard bankruptcy law says a discharge doesn’t affect liens on assets; so when bankruptcy law lets a debtor invalidate a lien, a court order signed by the judge, is necessary.
The judge looks over the papers you’ve filed to strip a lien only to see that your motion includes competent evidence and that the law allows the relief you’re asking for.
Find your courtroom drama elsewhere
If you want legal drama, watch TV.
You’re not likely to find it in your bankruptcy case.
And that’s just fine. Dull is good when you’re a party to the case.