For the most part, filing either Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is an administrative process. The bankruptcy lawyer gathers information, and prepares and files the petition. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor attends a brief hearing conducted by a trustee. In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, the debtor also has to attend a confirmation hearing. However, in some cases, an “adversary proceeding” is filed.
An adversary proceeding is essentially a case within a case. It is a lawsuit within either Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case about an issue related to the bankruptcy case. There are many other situations in which adversary proceedings arise. In other instances, the debtor brings the adversary proceeding to bring a claim or to obtain a determination from the court. The Bankruptcy Rules of Procedure specify the situations in which parties must file adversary proceedings.
There are three parties in the bankruptcy court case who can file an adversary proceeding. Those parties are the creditor, the trustee (either the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee, Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee, or the United States Trustee), and the debtor. Each adversarial proceeding is heard by the United States Bankruptcy Judge for the district where the bankruptcy is filed. For the cases filed here in Rochester, the adversary proceeding cases are heard by Hon. John C. Ninfo, II.
When a creditor files an adversary proceeding, it is usually because the creditor is claiming that the debt owed to the creditor should not be discharged in the bankruptcy. Usually, the creditor will argue that it is only that particular creditor’s claim that should not be discharged since it falls within one of the exceptions to discharge, such as a debt created through fraud, willful or malicious injury, or a personal injury caused by drunk driving. Alternatively, the creditor may argue that the filing of the bankruptcy case was done in bad faith and the debtor is not entitled to the discharge altogether. These kinds of adversary proceedings are not common.
Another kind of adversary proceeding is filed by the Chapter 7 Trustee, Chapter 13 Trustee, or the United States Trustee. A trustee may argue that the schedules were not filled out accurately and were intentionally fraudulent. A trustee may file a motion to dismiss the bankruptcy case if paperwork is not filed timely, improperly, or if the debtor misses a court date without a good reason. A trustee may file an adversary proceeding seeking to collect money back from a creditor who received funds or property from a debtor. A trustee may also file an adversary proceeding to reverse a transfer of real property. The United States Trustee may file an adversarial proceeding to force the debtor to move from Chapter 7 Bankruptcy to Chapter 13 bankruptcy if the U.S. Trustee believes that the filing of the bankruptcy petition was done in bad faith. The U.S. Trustee may also file an adversary proceeding to dismiss the case if the U.S. Trustee believes the filing of any bankruptcy petition was done to abuse the bankruptcy system.
Finally, a debtor may file an adversary proceeding against a creditor. The debtor may recover damages for a creditor’s actions taken in violation of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code or violated the automatic stay, or the discharge (such as contacting the debtor after the bankruptcy is completed).
The mere fact that an adversary proceeding is filed does not mean that the party filing it will prevail. The bankruptcy judge will hear the case and will determine each party’s rights. It is the job of the bankruptcy attorney to advise the party as to the likelihood of success in an adversary proceeding, but the case will be decided by the bankruptcy judge.
The following is an example of a situation where an adversary proceeding is filed. The debtor obtained a large cash advance prior to filing. That cash advance was used to prevent foreclosure or recover a vehicle after a repossession. However, the credit card issuer is likely to object claiming that the cash advance is taken out only a few months prior to filing bankruptcy and arguing that the debt is nondischargeable since it was either fraudulent or the money was borrowed in anticipation of the bankruptcy filing.
The litigation would commence with a filing or a complaint. An answer would serve, and the parties would engage in discovery. If the parties were unable to resolve their dispute during pretrial proceedings, there would be a trial.
If you contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.