What to do When Your Client Files for Bankruptcy

NJ collections attorney

From the perspective of a company owner doing business with a client (or company) who files for bankruptcy: how can you go about getting (even some of) the money you’re owed?

The second someone files for bankruptcy of any type, the Automatic Stay slams down like a sledgehammer – coming between the bankruptcy filer and anyone they owe money to. The Automatic Stay protects debtors during the bankruptcy process by making it illegal for any creditor to make contact asking for money.

Why can’t I contact my client?

After all, you and your client likely signed a working contract wherein you agreed to provide services and they agreed to pay you X amount of dollars for said services. Even though you continued to provide your end of the deal, your client filed for bankruptcy and now you aren’t even allowed to contact them. This can be very frustrating for a business owner who is owed payment(s) – money that may very well be making or breaking the creditor’s own business.

The reason you can’t contact a bankruptcy client is because the Automatic Stay is a protective measure put into place by the bankruptcy court to protect struggling debtors. It gives them enough time and breathing room to gather their financial information and meet with their bankruptcy attorney and/or a potential NJ credit counselor to come up with a plan that makes sense for getting them back on their feet again.

Chapter 11 and 13 bankruptcies are filed with the intention of reorganizing monies owed into a more feasible and achievable payment plan. As soon as these bankruptcy cases are complete – you will once again begin receiving payment from your client. According to their debt reorganization plan, you may not receive the full amount due, but you will get paid.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the vast majority of bankruptcies filed today are chapter 7, which entails debtors liquidating assets and discharging many of their debts altogether. If your client files for chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may have to write off their past due amount as a loss. In any case, remember NOT to contact them at all until you receive notice that their bankruptcy case is no longer active in the NJ Courts system.


To contact a debtor while they are actively going through the bankruptcy process (if an Automatic Stay is in place) means that you risk being sued. You will have broken the bankruptcy code if you even attempt to contact a bankruptcy client.


 

What You Can Do:

  • File a Proof of Claim – Downloadable from the USCourts online and easy to fill out.
  • Attend the Meeting of the Creditors; also known as the 341 Hearing – At this meeting, you will be able to question your client. You’ll also be permitted to object to the repayment or reorganization plan if you deem it unfair.
  • Thoroughly review any plan that is formulated by the debtor and their trustee. If less than half of their creditors do not consent with the plan, it won’t be approved by the bankruptcy court.
  • Make sure you are listed on the Creditor Matrix.
  • Wait and see. Truthfully, most of your time will be spent waiting to find out the outcome of your client’s case. If the case is dismissed, or “thrown out,” you will once again be allowed to attempt collection. If an agreement or repayment plan was formulated, you will receive a notice about how much you can collect. Be sure that all of your contact information is correct with the bankruptcy court and your client’s bankruptcy attorney to ensure you will receive any and all payments.