The People of Bankruptcy

Every bankruptcy filed in North Carolina involves a number of people and officials. This page provides a concise description of the role each plays in the bankruptcy process.


The debtor is the individual or business whose debts are the subject of the bankruptcy, and is typically the party who filed the bankruptcy.

Joint debtor

When a bankruptcy is filed by married spouses, the second listed spouse will sometimes be called the "joint debtor" in contrast to the first listed spouse as simply the "debtor". This should be contrasted with a co-debtor, co-obligator, or co-signer, terms that refer to a second party who jointly owes a particular debt with the debtor.


A creditor is an individual or business who is owed money by the debtor or otherwise has a claim against the debtor. Some creditors choose to participate actively in a bankruptcy, while others will not show and may not even assert their claim.


The trustee is appointed to administer money available to creditors in the bankruptcy. The role of the trustee varies depending on which chapter the bankruptcy was filed under.

Chapter 7 Trustee

In chapter 7, the trustee marshals property, sells it, and distributes it to creditors. He or she may also sue parties to recover money. Also referred to as panel trustees, each district's Bankruptcy Administer maintains a panel of private persons to be appointed as trustee for cases in the district. These trustees are most often bankruptcy attorneys themselves, but never represent a different non-trustee party in the same case.

Chapter 13 Standing Trustee

In chapter 13, the trustee collects the debtor's plan payments and distributes the proceeds to creditors. He or she does not ordinarily sell property or sue other parties. There are fewer standing trustees in each district, appointed for extended periods of time, and generally handling each case filed in a particular geographic area. Standing Trustees manage a Chapter 13 Office, which has numerous people working to administer all of the active cases assigned to that trustee. Some Standing Trustees employ one or more staff attorneys who will appear at hearings and file legal papers in the case.

United States Bankruptcy Administrator

The United States Bankruptcy Administrator is an independent judicial official charged with overseeing many aspects of the bankruptcy process, and generally protecting the public interest and integrity of the bankruptcy system. In states other than North Carolina and Alabama, this role is filled by the United States Trustee. Staff attorneys working in the BA's office often represent the Bankruptcy Administrator in court proceedings.

United States Bankruptcy Judge

The Bankruptcy Judges are empowered to apply the bankruptcy law to each case, and will make determinations if a particular party is entitled to the relief sought in bankruptcy. In an uncomplicated case, the debtor and debtor's attorney may not ever appear in hearing in front of the assigned Bankruptcy Judge. Typically, one judge will handle all matters in a particular case from beginning to end.

Clerk of Bankruptcy Court

The Clerk of Bankruptcy Court maintains all the papers, court records, information systems, and other administrative functions in the court. One or more deputy clerks will responsible for processing court papers in a particular case, and a deputy clerk is always present in a court hearing.