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A debtor's involvement with the bankruptcy judge is usually very limited.
A typical chapter 7 debtor will not appear in court and will not see the bankruptcy judge unless an objection is raised in the case.
The Supreme Court made this point about the purpose of the bankruptcy law in a 1934 decision: [I]t gives to the honest but unfortunate debtor…a new opportunity in life and a clear field for future effort, unhampered by the pressure and discouragement of preexisting debt. It also describes what a debtor can do if a creditor attempts to collect a discharged debt after the bankruptcy case is concluded.
Six basic types of bankruptcy cases are provided for under the Bankruptcy Code, each of which is discussed in this publication.
Chapter 12, entitled Adjustment of Debts of a Family Farmer or Fisherman with Regular Annual Income, provides debt relief to family farmers and fishermen with regular income.
The process under chapter 12 is very similar to that of chapter 13, under which the debtor proposes a plan to repay debts over a period of time – no more than three years unless the court approves a longer period, not exceeding five years.
Much of the bankruptcy process is administrative, however, and is conducted away from the courthouse.
The debtor normally receives a discharge just a few months after the petition is filed.
Chapter 12 allows a family farmer or fisherman to continue to operate the business while the plan is being carried out.