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Can I File for Bankruptcy During the Coronavirus Shelter-in-Place?

Petition to file for Bankruptcy
By Maddy Teka, Esq. on April 16, 2020

Most states are under some form of a shelter-in-place order. But that doesn't mean debt collections and other bills have stopped. If you are financially struggling, you may be looking into filing for bankruptcy. But how will the stay-at-home orders affect your ability to file?

Can I File for Bankruptcy During a Shelter-in-Place Order?

Yes, you can file for bankruptcy as long as you comply with the social distancing guidelines issued by your state. But there are some extra steps you need to take to make sure the process goes smoothly.

Check If the Courts Are Open

In response to COVID-19, most courts are adjusting their schedules to comply with the state and federal social distancing guidelines. These adjustments include:

  • Closing courthouses
  • Rescheduling or doing virtual trials
  • Restricting access to courthouses

Most bankruptcy courts are open throughout the country. But make sure to check whether the bankruptcy court in your district is open, and if so, what its hours of operation are. You can do this by checking your court's website.

Most Attorneys Offer Virtual Consultations

Filing for bankruptcy is complicated and involves a lot of details, so retaining an attorney may be the best option for you. That way, you can ensure all your legal rights are protected.

The good thing is most firms offer virtual consultations, so you won't be putting your health at risk by going to their offices.

You might need access to a computer and a scanner to be able to send all your documents to your attorney. You can also mail them. After your attorney receives all the required documents, they can start the process of filing your bankruptcy case.

You Will Need to Complete Two Courses (Online)

Completing a debtor education course and a credit counseling course is required at some point during the bankruptcy process. Your attorney can explain what you need to do to access the courses.

The 341 Meeting of Creditors Will Likely Take Place Virtually

After your case is filed, a 341 meeting of creditors will take place. A 341 meeting of creditors is a hearing where a trustee is appointed in the presence of all the debtors.

This will likely happen via telephone until the social distancing guidelines change. Speak to your attorney to learn more about how your state is conducting 341 meetings.

If you have already filed for bankruptcy and your 341 meeting is coming up soon, contact the trustee's office to see how they are planning to conduct the session.

The CARES Act Revises Some Provisions of the Bankruptcy Code

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act") to support individuals and small businesses. This Act, among other things, makes temporary changes to some provisions in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. These changes include:

  • COVID-19-related payments received by the government will not be considered “income" for the purposes of bankruptcy filings.
  • Chapter 13 filers can modify their payments if they can show “material financial hardship" because of COVID-19.

Filed for Bankruptcy? Expect Delays

Most courts are operating with a reduced schedule with only essential staff or staff working remotely. So, expect delays at least until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.

Related Resources:

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