Legal movies often show lawyers that have a special rapport with the judge, or who get on a judge's nerves because of the bold moves and flamboyant behavior that is so often featured on the big screen. However, a real life bankruptcy proceeding is definitely not the place for grandstanding or creating a ruckus in the courtroom.
Bankruptcy is a complex legal matter, and gaining the judge's respect is essential for keeping the process calm and successful.
What Not to Do Before Bankruptcy
Preparing for bankruptcy is almost as important as undergoing the process itself, so you'll want to avoid some questionable behaviors before you sit before a judge and a bankruptcy trustee starts to look at your debts.
The biggest "no-no" is incurring any additional debt in the months before you file. The court expects that the point at which you arrive at bankruptcy is a process that took months, and spending a few thousand on your Visa a few months before you try to discharge that debt through bankruptcy is a huge red flag to any judge or bankruptcy trustee.
According to legal resource Nolo:
If you ran up more debt in the 70 to 90 days prior to filing bankruptcy, then that creditor may try to object to your discharge. It may argue that you took out the loan without any intention of paying it back (this is called "fraud"), and that you should not be allowed to discharge that debt in bankruptcy.
However, the opposite kind of behavior may also prove to be problematic. You'd assume that paying off some of your debts before filing for bankruptcy would show your good intentions, but the court might not see your actions as such.
When your creditors meet to decide upon a course of action for settling debts or making payment arrangements (as in the case of Chapter 11), the court requires that the debtor not show preferential treatment to any one creditor.
This means that you can't try to make car payments so as to keep your vehicle when you also have payments required on a few credit cards. You might feel that you're acting in a responsible manner by paying down debts, but if you do make any payments, it's important that they be spread across all of your debts instead of just a single debt that you've managed to pay off completely.
Treating the Judge with Respect
Any judge worth his or her weight won't allow lawyers to parade around the courtroom to make a mockery of the proceedings, and that goes for the people being represented by those lawyers. Although a bankruptcy proceeding is often different from the emotionally charged venue of a divorce or criminal court proceeding, cultivating the judge's respect is still essential to a positive outcome.
An interesting article from lawyers at the University of Nevada suggests:
Not only do bankruptcy lawyers have to protect the legal system as a whole, they also have to understand enough about the Code to honor its principles. Unfortunately, the Code itself has two competing principles: to allow the debtor a fresh start and to provide a collective remedy for creditors.
The article goes on to describe those two principles as likely to clash during proceedings. However, the advice the article gives to lawyers is also perfect advice for the debtor who wants to remain on the judge's "good" side. The article suggests:
- Don't lie
- Be prepared
- Communicate effectively
- Play nice
- Follow through
Each of these basic pieces of advice is a behavior that will help the average debtor perform as well as is to be expected during a bankruptcy proceeding. Remaining in constant contact with a lawyer and keeping up to date with important court proceedings will help you feel prepared to meet the demands of a bankruptcy proceeding and come out on the other side of bankruptcy with a true fresh start.
Need Help With Bankruptcy?
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DISCLAIMER: All information on this website are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. Suburban Legal Group PC shall not be liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained herein, or any actions taken in reliance thereon.