Who reviews my bankruptcy papers after I file?

A complete bankruptcy petition with supporting schedules and statements runs around 50 pages. So what happens to these papers after the bankruptcy debtor reviews and signs them, and the attorney files them with the court?

One of bankruptcy's unique aspects is that there is a huge cast of characters in bankruptcy, each with a particular role. Different officials and parties review filed bankruptcy papers for different things.

Clerk of Court: Administrative Matters

Often, a deputy clerk of court will review the petition to make sure nothing is missing or facial defective. If there is an apparent problem, the clerk will issue a notice that the petition is deficient. At that point, the omission either needs to be corrected or otherwise resolved.

Bankruptcy Administrator: Chapter 7 Eligibility and More

In North Carolina, the Bankruptcy Administrator, an independent judicial official, is charged with certain duties related to overseeing the fairness and administration of the bankruptcy process. In chapter 7 cases, the Bankruptcy Administrator's office has the duty to review a bankruptcy case to determine whether or not there are means testing eligibility problems or other circumstances that raise a question of whether relief under chapter 7 is appropriate.

The Bankruptcy Administrator also takes a role in enforcing the requirements concerning discharges in second bankruptcies, reviewing the compensation of attorneys, and raising issues of fraud or bankruptcy wrongdoing, among other things.

Bankruptcy Trustee: Assets or Plans

Generally, the bankruptcy trustee is the party who is going to give the most holistic review of bankruptcy papers. Chapter matters as to what a trustee is looking for in a review. In chapter 7, the Chapter 7 Trustee is going to carefully review assets, exemptions, and financial transactions (e.g. transfers of property), as these have the most direct impact on whether or not the trustee has the ability to pay creditors (i.e. administer an estate). A chapter 7 trustee might also bring some other irregularity in the bankruptcy case or papers to the attention of the bankruptcy judge or the bankruptcy administrator.

In chapter 13 bankruptcy, the Standing Trustee will conduct a similar review as Chapter 7 Trustee, but with an eye towards determining if whether or not the chapter 13 plan proposed by the debtor meets the requirements of Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. In particular, the trustee would review income and expenses, the nature of secured debts and priority debts, and the amount of property claimed and exempted.

Bankruptcy Judge: When Needed

Most of the time, the bankruptcy judge assigned to a case is not going to review anything in the bankruptcy papers unless an issue is raised by another official or party. However, sometimes a bankruptcy judge may sue sponte raise some concern with a bankruptcy, perhaps an issue noticed when reviewing a related motion or request.

Creditors: Only If They Bother

Most creditors don't read or obtain the bankruptcy papers, as there is little to be gained by them doing so in most cases. They have the option to do so if they so desire. Motivated individual creditors, such as an ex-spouse or upset business partner, are the most likely of any party to pick over a bankruptcy petition with a fine tooth comb.

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