What is It Like to Go To Bankruptcy Court in New York?

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Many of my bankruptcy clients have never been in any court before filing for bankruptcy.  Understandably, they are nervous about going to court.  Their idea of court is the classic view of a Judge with gray hair, in a black robe, sitting high behind a tall desk, with an American flag, with court officers on either side of him and a jury box made of dark wood.

Going to a bankruptcy hearing is nothing like this.

Normally, you don’t even get to go to the courtroom and see the Judge in his black robes.  This is really for business bankruptcies.

Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy hearings are generally on a lower floor and conducted in rooms that look kind of like class rooms.  The assistant Judge or “trustee” is dressed in a suit.  They sit behind a teacher’s desk.  There are some chairs in front of the desk.   About 20 to 30 people are waiting their turn to sit in front of the desk to be questioned by the trustee.

Don’t forget our attorney will be with you all the way.

You can watch the people being questioned before you. You should watch so you will be less nervous when it is your turn.   The trustees usually ask everyone the same questions.  The questions are like: “How many children do you support?” or “Did you ever own a business or real estate”.  Each case takes about 10 minutes.

A word to the wise.  Bring a book.  If you are last on the list, you might wait 2 to 3 hours.   At first it is interesting.  But, it is not after three hours.