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Understanding Your Bankruptcy Papers

Nobody ever expects to come face to face with bankruptcy, but financial problems have a tendency to arise unexpectedly and spiral out of control. While some people can overcome their debt, others have no path forward without declaring bankruptcy. If you are one of the millions of Americans currently facing bankruptcy, you may fear that every noise outside is a process server coming to serve your court papers.

This may be especially true if your bankruptcy situation is different from the majority of cases seen each year. Most cases involve a defendant discharging debts that he or she cannot pay, but some people also become defendants in adversary proceedings. An adversary proceeding is a separate lawsuit filed within your bankruptcy case when a creditor or bankruptcy trustee files a complaint. A creditor might challenge your ability to discharge their debt, or a trustee might seek to regain property that you sold before your bankruptcy. These added complications can make the bankruptcy process even more miserable.

If anxiety over hearing the words “You’ve been served” has been keeping you away at night, you can relax. It’s actually common for bankruptcy defendants to receive their Summons and Complaint through First Class U.S. Mail. The Bankruptcy Rule 7004 makes this a rare privilege that isn’t granted to other legal issues. When you receive your Summons and Complaint in the mail, it is actually every bit as valid as if a process server handed it to you over the threshold of your front door.

However, don’t make the mistake of assuming that those papers are any less significant simply because they were not delivered in person. Bankruptcy proceedings, especially adversary proceedings, move quickly. You may only have 30 days from the issuance of your Summons to respond and get your affairs in order. Contact your attorney immediately if you’re not sure how to proceed.

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