Due to either job requirements or sometimes health restrictions, we are frequently asked whether both spouses are required to attend the bankruptcy meeting. The answer we give is an unqualified, “yes,” both spouses must attend the bankruptcy meeting. The reason why both spouses must attend can be found in Section 341 of the bankruptcy code.
Because Section 341 of the bankruptcy code requires an “oral” examination of the debtor at a “creditor’s meeting,” both spouses must attend this bankruptcy meeting of creditors. Because it needs to be oral and at a place where the creditors can attend, the meeting must occur in-person with both debtors present. Although creditors rarely attend basic Chapter 7 bankruptcy meetings, the opportunity to attend these meetings must take place on every case. If both debtors are not physically present, then they cannot be examined by the trustee or the creditors.
The bankruptcy system has developed the bankruptcy meeting from these requirements to be a single-set “hearing-like” setting. Just as any other court hearing, you are required to attend in person. Both debtors’ identities must also be clearly established to prevent bankruptcy fraud by bringing their driver’s license and social security card in person. Telephonic or other not-in-person approaches are not allowed or at least very much opposed by the bankruptcy system because this further frustrates attempts to prove identity.
The bankruptcy system makes few exceptions to in-person examination during the bankruptcy meeting. Even power-of-attorney is usually insufficient for someone else or a spouse to testify without the debtor in person. If at all possible, the debtor needs to attend: work requirements or other practical-type considerations are usually insufficient excuses. If the debtor faces complete physical disability or mental incapacity, then accommodations are sometimes made to make the bankruptcy system work for these rare situations. In almost every other situation, both debtors need to attend the bankruptcy meeting in person in order to meet the requirements of the bankruptcy code.