I travel a lot, both domestically and internationally, for work. I am wondering what happens if for some reason I am unable to make it to the creditors hearing if my ch. 7 will get dismissed or proceed.
In Miami, Florida the trustees will dismiss the case at the first meeting of creditors if the debtor does not appear. If you know ahead of time that you will not be available on the scheduled meeting date you can ask your attorney to request a continuance from the trustee to the next available meeting date. However, you will have to attend the meeting at some point. In this district we know the date of the meeting at least one month beforehand. With such notice perhaps you can work with your employer so that a business trip is not scheduled on the day you have to appear in court or, if necessary, take a vacation day on the day of the meeting.
In the Southern District of Florida, your case will be dismissed if you do not appear at the 341 Meeting of Creditors. If you are unable to appear on the scheduled date, you should contact the trustee to request that the 341 Meeting of Creditors be rescheduled.
In Chicago, the Trustee will continue your case to the next date that he is hearing cases. It is extremely important that you show up to the continued Creditors Meeting, because if you miss that one, the Trustee will move to dismiss your case. To avoid this, some of the Trustees will hold a third meeting. You usually have to pay the Trustee to do a third meeting, and it can be quite expensive...so it is a good idea to make it to your Meeting of Creditors if at all possible.
The best course of action is to communicate the scheduling conflict with the trustee as soon as possible.
Problems with dates often emerge, but if you wait until only a few days before the meeting, the trustee is less likely to agree to a continuance. It will be seen as either a bad faith attempt at delay, or simply denied because you had sufficient notice. The reason for the strict rules is that the 341 hearing is for the benefit of creditors, not you. It would mean the creditors will have to come back again, and the trustee is weighing the issue with your schedule against the burden on the creditors.
My practice has been that as soon as I learn there is a scheduling problem, I tell the trustee about it immediately, and offer to send out a notice to all creditors that the hearing is continued. The trustees usually appreciate that, and are willing to agree to the continuance. Contact your attorney right now so this is handled as soon as possible.
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Communication with your attorney and the trustee will be VITAL, but according to the Local Bankruptcy Rules for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of California (I believe this is the district in which San Diego, CA, is located):
1017-3. Dismissal for Lack of Prosecution.
(a) Procedure. The Court, on its own motion or on a motion by the trustee or U.S. Trustee, after notice to the debtor, the debtor's attorney, and to all creditors through a section 341(a) notice, a deficiency notice, or otherwise, may dismiss a
case for the reasons set forth in section (b) below unless the debtor or any party in interest . . . (2) files a motion requesting an extension of time or an excuse from performance within 14 days of service of such notice.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. For purposes of section (a) above, the following are grounds for dismissal:
(3) failure to attend 341(a) meeting. The Court, on its own motion or on a motion by the trustee or U.S. Trustee, after notice to the debtor, the debtor's attorney, and to all creditors through a section 341(a) notice, may dismiss a case for failure of a debtor to appear at the initial section 341(a) meeting or any continued meeting.
Effective March 1, 2015
No the trustee would likely not conclude the meeting and re notice the 341 meeting to the next available date.
In my district, your Meeting of Creditors is scheduled within a day or two of the filing of your case, and you generally have about a month's notice of when it will be held so you can do some advance planning. If you've been assigned a date and you have a good excuse for why you cannot be there, you should have your attorney contact the Chapter 7 Trustee (or if you are representing yourself, contact the Trustee) and ask for the next available date. Check your local U.S. Trustee's Office website for procedures on requesting a rescheduled Meeting of Creditors. If you simply do not show up and do not make arrangements ahead of time, your case could be dismissed right then and there, so it is important to take care of this and to take it seriously.
San Diego policy gives trustee discretion to dismiss case if you do not appear. Dismissal is not automatic.
Communicate with trustee in advance. Request continued creditors meeting date.
Case will not proceed without an appearance.
Planning is vital. If you cannot make the date set for the meeting, having your attorney contact the trustee to reschedule to a date you can make will do much to aleviate the problem. You will have to pay for mailing a notice of continued meeting to the creditors so they know not to show up but you case will continue. If you simply don't show, dismissal is likely.
I used to do a lot of chapter 7s and both lawyers are correct. You will be given plenty of notice regarding the date and time so you should not schedule a conflicting meeting.