Frequently Asked Questions
The Chapter 13 Trustee Booklet, available online here, contains useful information about Chapter 13 and your obligations as a debtor. Please read it carefully. A list of common questions with brief answers is provided below. For additional information, please explore this website for a variety of useful topics. Links are provided on the left side of this page. If, after reviewing the information available on this website, you still have questions, please contact your attorney. The Chapter 13 Trustee and her staff can provide information about the status of your payments and payments to creditors (which you can access online here), but neither she nor her staff can answer legal questions or provide legal advice.
What property is included in the Bankruptcy?
All property of the debtor at the time of the filing of petition and all property acquired during the bankruptcy case is “property of the estate.” Property of the estate must be disclosed and accounted for in a debtor’s bankruptcy petition, schedules and amended schedules. Failure to disclose assets can result in the revocation of discharge, dismissal of a case and criminal prosecution for bankruptcy crimes. Even if a debt is paid directly by the debtor during the bankruptcy case, the property securing the debt (such as a home, RV or motor vehicle) is still property of the bankruptcy estate and subject to the jurisdiction of the Bankruptcy Court. Therefore, you must get Bankruptcy Court approval to sell or transfer any of your property, no matter when it was acquired or how it was paid for.
When should I start making payments?
Your first plan payment is due within 30 days after the filing of your petition. Please start making payments immediately. You can read more about various payment options at Making Plan Payments. If you have not made a plan payment before your scheduled meeting of creditors, the Chapter 13 Trustee or other creditors may object to the confirmation of your plan and may seek to have your case dismissed.
Where should I send my payment? Can I just drop off cash?
The Trustee does not accept cash payments. All checks and money orders must be made payable to: Chapter 13 Trustee and mailed to the Chapter 13 Trustee’s payment address at P.O. Box 511, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37401. Additional information about the payment methods available, including online payments, can be found at Making Plan Payments.
I am self-employed or I own a business, do I need to do anything special?
Chapter 13 debtors who are self-employed or who are engaged in business are required to file periodic reports and summaries of their business operations with the Bankruptcy Court and Chapter 13 Trustee. Please contact your attorney if you have any questions.
How will this affect my credit rating?
Your credit rating during and after completion of Chapter 13 will be, as it is now and was in the past, the opinion of any credit grantor who looks at your record. A credit rating is a compilation of all of your past credit performances. This record is obtainable by the creditor, who reviews it and makes up his own mind, by his own standards, as to whether or not he wants to grant you credit. Suits, collections, attachments, insufficient checks, late payments and bankruptcies are all indications of credit problems. After many years and thousands of paid-in-full Chapter 13 cases in this area, many knowledgeable lenders look with respect upon those who have paid their debts in full under a Chapter 13 plan. Any credit record that has been blemished must be gradually rebuilt. Chapter 13 can be a good place to start. The Chapter 13 Trustee’s Office does not report any case information to any credit reporting agency. Please contact your attorney if you have questions regarding your credit rating.
I got a notice about a Meeting of Creditors. Do I have to attend?
Yes, unless your attorney specifically tells you otherwise. All debtors are required to attend a meeting of creditors for their original plan and for amended or modified plans. There are very few exceptions to this rule, so unless you are specifically told by your attorney that you do not need to attend, then you should plan on appearing at the meeting of creditors with all appropriate documentation and identification. You should contact and coordinate with your attorney about how to appear and verify your identity.
Where is the Bankruptcy Court located?
If your case was filed in the Winchester Division, the Bankruptcy Court is located at the U.S. Post Office & Courthouse, Second Floor Courtroom, 200 South Jefferson Street, Winchester, TN 37398. If your case was filed in the Southern Division, the Bankruptcy Court is located at the Historic U.S. Courthouse, Third Floor, 31 East 11th Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402-2722. If you do not know whether your case was filed in the Southern or Winchester Divisions, cases are usually filed in the division that contains the residential county of the debtor.
|Bledsoe, Bradley, Hamilton, McMinn, Marion, Meigs, Polk, Rhea and Sequatchie
|Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Grundy, Lincoln, Moore, Warren and Van Buren
The Bankruptcy Court website is located at www.tneb.uscourts.gov. The Bankruptcy Court’s website has contact information, maps and additional information about the bankruptcy process.
I can’t make a payment or I need to lower my plan payment. Who should I call?
Your attorney. The Chapter 13 Trustee has no authority to allow you to skip your payments, make late payments or make a payment less than your plan requires. Your attorney, however, may be able to make adjustments to your plan by seeking approval of the Bankruptcy Court.
I got a copy of a motion in the mail. Does this mean my case is over?
Not necessarily. A motion is a request by a party asking the Bankruptcy Judge to do something. Typically, the Judge will set a hearing which will allow you or your attorney to respond to the motion. You should contact your attorney immediately if you get a copy of a motion or any other legal correspondence in the mail. Many times motions are filed to resolve routine problems or issues, so please contact your attorney to address these issues.
I got a new job or I moved. Who should I contact?
Your attorney. As a debtor in bankruptcy, you have a duty to keep your attorney informed of a change in financial circumstances or contact information.
Even after submitting new employment information for issuance of a wage order, a debtor should check his or her pay stub for proof that the plan payment is being deducted. If an employer is not deducting the plan payment, the debtor is responsible for making that payment directly to the Trustee. Information about how to make direct plan payments can be found at Making Plan Payments.
I need to borrow money or buy something on credit. What do I do?
First, contact your attorney to determine the appropriate course of action. Generally, debtors are prohibited from using credit or financing while in Chapter 13 without the prior approval of the Chapter 13 Trustee or the Bankruptcy Judge. The only exception to this rule is borrowing in the case of an emergency for the immediate preservation of life, health or property. You can read more about this topic at Getting Permission to Incur New Debt.
I am involved in a lawsuit or I have had an accident. Do I need to do anything?
You should contact your bankruptcy attorney. The Bankruptcy Code creates special protections for debtors who are being sued. It also places an obligation on debtors to disclose whether they have a claim (or lawsuit) against someone. Please read more about this situation, other life events and your obligations as a debtor at Keeping Your Attorney Informed and What are My Responsibilities in Chapter 13?
How can I contact the Chapter 13 Trustee’s Office?
You may contact the Chapter 13 Trustee’s Office by telephone at (423) 265-2261 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, except on holidays or staff training. Because of the high call volume, you may have to leave a voicemail message. If so, please clearly state your name, case number, a telephone number at which you can be reached during business hours and a simple statement as to the purpose of your call. The Trustee’s Office tries to return phone calls within 24 hours.
Additionally, contact information for specific departments at the Chapter 13 Trustee’s office can be found here.
What if I pay too much? Will I get a refund?
Once your case is complete, the Trustee’s Office will mail any refund to you by mid-month following the month in which your Certificate of Final Payment was filed. You can learn more about case closing procedures at Plan Completion. If you are due tax credits from a tax refund sent to the Chapter 13 Trustee’s Office, you can learn more about that process at Tax Return and Refund Information.
When will this be over?
A case ends once the payment of all sums due under the plan have been made. This usually takes 3 to 5 years. It may take longer, however, depending upon filed claims, missed payments or a variety of other circumstances. Thousands of debtors have gained financial freedom through the bankruptcy process. It’s not easy, and you are commended for your perseverance. More information about plan completion and the case closing process can be found here.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a voluntary process. With some exceptions, most debtors can choose to dismiss their case at any time. There may be, however, legal consequences to dismissing your case prior to the completion of the Chapter 13 Plan. You should discuss whether you should dismiss your case with your attorney.
How do I pay my attorney?
When your attorney agreed to represent you, your attorney became obligated to appear and represent your interests subject to the terms of your agreement. Generally, your attorney must continue to appear on your behalf as long as your case is active or until the Bankruptcy Judge permits your attorney to withdraw from your case. You likely entered into a written contract with your attorney that explained how much the legal fee would be and how it would be paid. Be sure that you discuss fully with your attorney whether additional legal services during your plan will cost more money or whether the initial fee will cover all legal expenses. Your attorney’s fee may increase if you are involved in a bankruptcy lawsuit called an “adversary proceeding” or other services that are not customary or routine. Your attorney should notify you if he or she seeks additional fees for representing you in the bankruptcy case or if an “adversary proceeding” is filed. In most cases, your attorney will be paid the allowed fee through the Chapter 13 plan. All fees charged by your attorney must be disclosed to the Bankruptcy Judge and are subject to the Judge’s approval.