What are My Responsibilities in Chapter 13?
Chapter 13 is a form of bankruptcy available to individuals or families with regular income that are experiencing difficulty paying their debts. During the life of your Chapter 13 case, you will be referred to as a “debtor.” This describes a person who is under the protection of the United States Bankruptcy Court. Chapter 13 is a long-term commitment of debt repayment, and you are to be commended for accepting responsibility of repaying your creditors. It is very important that you understand the Chapter 13 requirements in order to successfully complete your case. Below is a list of those requirements and simple steps to help ensure your Chapter 13 success.
- Hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney to help you through this process. Success without an attorney is extremely unlikely. Your attorney’s role is to advise you. If you do not understand something, then ask questions. Be sure you have a clear understanding of what is happening in your case.
- Read and confirm the accuracy of every document you sign. You have a duty under applicable law to be cooperative and truthful.
- Maintain an accurate address with the Bankruptcy Court. If you move or your mailing address changes, then notify your attorney to file a notice of address change with the Bankruptcy Court.
- Open your mail. Read all correspondence that you receive from your attorney, the Bankruptcy Court, the Chapter 13 Trustee’s Office and/or creditors. Respond to such correspondence through notifying and working diligently with your attorney. Likewise, communicate with your attorney and respond immediately to your attorney’s calls and any correspondence.
- Develop an honest, straightforward, accurate and complete plan with your attorney. This includes developing a household budget and sticking to it as best you can.
- Make your payments to the Chapter 13 Trustee on time and in full.
- Pay attention to what is happening in your case. Review the claims and claim amounts filed in your case to make sure they are correct. Likewise, monitor the activity in your case using the Online Case Information system.
- Keep your attorney informed as changes and events occur in your life. Relevant events include: marriage, name change, moving, divorce, death of joint-debtors or spouse or members of your household, job loss, salary changes, pending lawsuits, new lawsuits, lawsuit proceeds received, inheritances, insurance proceeds received, gifts, etc.
- Keep current on all regular bills and tax obligations while in Chapter 13. Also maintain insurance on your property while in Chapter 13. If you are incurring bills you cannot pay in cash, please contact your attorney.
- Do not sell your property without Bankruptcy Court approval. This includes selling homes, cars, jewelry, etc. Also do not not incur debt, use credit, credit cards, or enter into leases while in Chapter 13 without Bankruptcy Court approval, except in the case of an emergency for the protection and preservation of life, health or property. Contact your attorney if you need to sell property or incur debt.
- Do not gamble while your are in Chapter 13.
- Read “The Chapter 13 Trustee Booklet” – it helps answer some routine questions and is a handy resource.