I'm sitting here, on my couch, slightly stunned. I was so busy taking care of my kiddo today that it hasn't really had time to sink in... it's over. The big, huge, scary event that I've been terrified of for months is now a part of my past.
The drive up to the court in Tampa was a pain. I hate Tampa. Always have. I was armed with directions and a good idea of what it should look like. I'd been there with my mom in 2005 and I'd looked at the street view on Google maps. I was set.
Except... there was a ton of construction. Nothing looked familiar. The only thing I recognized from Google was the building with the above-road walkway thing. (Luckily, this was where I needed to go.)
I called my lawyers office. Voice mail. Damnit. I called again and hit 0 instead of the extension option. The lady that answered was super nice and very helpful. She gave me some ideas of where to look for parking and, finally, I found a metered space that was open.
I pulled in without any damage to my car or the cars around me. (I'm not very confident with my parallel parking skills. Luckily, Tampa has generous spaces!) I got the stroller out, the diaper supplies out, the toys out, and finally, got my daughter situated.
When I went to Publix the other day I got lots of $1s for the various tolls. Unfortunately, I hadn't thought to get quarters. The parking meters ONLY take quarters. And it's $1.50 per HOUR! Holy cow! I had just enough for an hour and a half and crossed my fingers that it would work out. (Side note: the town I live in does not have metered parking.)
We walked the four or five blocks to the courthouse. I'm so very grateful that I've been working on my direction sense. It's normally terrible. I figured out how to get there with no problems, even though I had to detour an extra block due to a sidewalk being closed.
There wasn't any line for security. Which was awesome, because I am clueless about that kind of thing. I had to show my photo ID, empty my pockets, unload the stroller, push her through, then go back through myself, answer questions about the contents of my purse (I have an epi-pen, which apparently got flagged as they asked about it), let them examine the stroller and it's storage areas, and then recollect all my stuff.
We hit the bathroom and then headed to the courtroom. In 2005 my mom was in the room directly across from where we went, so it was a little deja-vu like. We waited in the back. The kiddo was amazing. I mean I could not have asked her to be any better than she was. I am so very proud. (Another side note: she spiked a fever of over 102 degrees last night and was still feverish this morning w/o meds. She felt okay after Motrin kicked in, but without it was miserable.)
I watched a few cases as best I could. No one was assigned a home visit from an appraiser, which surprised me as I was terrified it would happen. Apparently MDFL is appraisal-happy according to what I've read on www.bkforum.com. The trustee was respectful. He seemed to have a little less patience for people who were wishy-washy or putting on a "poor me" show. Yet when one lady genuinely bust into tears, he was very compassionate (still in a professional kinda way).
The lawyer showed up and popped his head in, called my name softly, and then helped me get the stroller out into the main area and into a conference area. Babygirl got out and shook his hand and then was silly for a few minutes. I'm so very glad we had this time because when my mom got called up she had no idea where her lawyer was; she didn't recognize her! It was very reassuring to have talked to him beforehand.
He gave me the following advice:
- Answer all questions honestly and completely. Then shut up.
- Do not offer ANY information that's not asked for.
- Speak clearly and with authority. Give short answers.
Then he told me a few questions that the trustee might ask. (There's a really great list of these somewhere on the internet... I should find it and link to it.)
Then we went back into the room. He said we should sit up front so that the trustee would more likely call us next.
We watched one case together. At one point he leaned over and whispered, "this is exactly how not to answer questions." The lady was wishy-washy about everything. "Did you read the form that explains the difference between the types of bankruptcies?" "I think so. I'm not sure. If I did I think I read it online and not a paper handout. I'm not sure."
We got called next. My daughter was very good and he was kind to her.
I handed him my FL driver's license and my SS card. He read both. "This is case number ... with filer ... ." He swore me in. "I have in front of me .... with her DL and SS card. Please state your name and address for the record."
"No creditors are present."
He looked at my paperwork. To my surprise he asked me the least questions of anyone. He didn't ask why I had filed bankruptcy or why my husband wasn't filing with me. He confirmed the car I owned and then basically asked me if the form was complete (yes, sir), had I listed all my assets (yes, sir), did I read it before signing it (yes, sir), and so forth.
The only non-everybody question he asked me was about my business. "I see here you used to have interest in a business."
"Are there assets remaining?"
"Yes, sir. They are listed in my paperwork."
"Could you give me an idea of what kind of assets those are?"
"A massage table and some facial equipment."
"Is that all?"
My lawyer interjected that it was a very small business and made a few other comments along the same lines. The trustee nodded at him and looked again at my petition then moved on.
"This concludes the meeting of creditors."
If my kid hadn't been with me and been slightly distracting, I would have been done in under five minutes. It probably took ten with her.
I met with the lawyer again. He told me that they (the creditors) had a certain time period to object. He said, "they can't just say, 'hey, we don't like this!' there are only a few cases they can report against you." Then he asked if I had committed fraud, transfer of assets, etc., to which I answered no. He told me that I should get my letter of discharge in approximately 90 days and wished me luck.
We stopped at a play place in St. Pete and had lunch while we were there. She was feeling pretty good (I had re-Motrined her before we got called) and had the energy to play. It probably wasn't the best mommy move, but I needed fun and she had been SO good in the courtroom.
Then we had a long drive home. It still hadn't hit me. I talked with my mom and reassured her that she hadn't even come up in the conversation. She was greatly relieved. I'm so glad that she's supportive of me; after all, she's been through this too.
So now I'm a member of the 60-day club. Woo!