November 24, 2017

Objection to Chapter 13 Confirmation or Motion to Dismiss? Now the Hard Work Starts

Last week, I was reminded about the importance of taking care of Chapter 13 business early.  I got stuck in court for 4 hours waiting to have a 45 second conversation with the Chapter 13 trustee.

My case involved a trustee motion to dismiss.  My client had filed Chapter 13 about 2 years ago and earlier this year he lost his job and thus fell behind on his trustee payments.  The trustee filed a motion to dismiss, with a hearing scheduled for mid-May.  A couple of days before the hearing my client called to say that he had landed a new job and could I buy him some time.  I called and emailed the trustee and she agreed to reset the motion to dismiss hearing to last week’s calendar.

I notified my client of the reset and asked him for detailed information about his new job including a salary breakdown.  He provided me most of what I needed but did not yet have an actual paycheck.  He also sent the trustee 3 of the 5 missing payments.  Finally, the weekend before the hearing I decided to file my amended budget with an estimated budget.

On the Monday before the Wednesday hearing I started calling and emailing the trustee.  No response.  I checked the trustee’s web site – my client’s personal check had not yet posted (although he did have a registered mail receipt signed by someone in the trustee’s office).  The day before the hearing I emailed and called.  No response.

Having no other choice, I trekked down to court only to discover that the judge’s hearing calendar was 15o pages with hundreds and hundreds of cases.  It took 3 1/2 hours to read the calendar.  After the call of the calendar I was able to talk to the trustee and she agreed to a consent order assuming the funds posted within 10 days – a 45 second conversation.

What could my client and I have done differently?

  1. I should have insisted on a paycheck breakdown 10 days earlier, even if we were working with estimates.  My client wanted to be accurate but in this case timeliness was more important.
  2. My client should have brought the trustee certified funds by personal delivery and obtained a receipt for same.  This should have been done at least 7 days prior to the hearing.

The good news here is that we saved his case.  This is especially important because I had filed a lien strip early on in the case and eliminated a $30,000+ second mortgage.  If the case had been dismissed that 2nd mortgage would have reattached to my client’s house.

Chapter 13 Trustees Looking to Squeeze Every Last Dime from Debtors

Over the past couple of years I have noted an unsettling trend in my Chapter 13 casesTrustees in the Northern District of Georgia are scrutinizing budgets line by line and are objecting to budget items in an attempt to force debtors to increase their trustee payments.

I am even receiving objections to the total amount of expenses claimed.  In a recent case, for example, the trustee filed a supplemental objection a week before confirmation which asserted that the debtor’s total claimed monthly expenses were too high.  When I called, he pointed out four or five specific line items and I obtained and presented supporting documentation from my client.

My client advises me that he is literally having difficulty buying food and the trustee acknowledged that our claimed expenses were legitimate but he would not back off his objection because the total payout to unsecured creditors was less than 50 cents on the dollar.  There is no resolution yet, but we agreed to reset the confirmation until after the date that all claims are due – presumably some of the unsecured creditors will not file claims, meaning that the ones who do will receive a higher payout. [Read more…]

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