An apology may increase your chances of Chapter 13 approval

Filing for Chapter 13 takes a lot of steps, and one of those steps is to get approval from a judge. If they approve your debt reorganization plans under the Chapter 13 filing, then a trustee will be appointed to your case to ensure you stay on track with your payments and that your financial situation remains in line with what the judge and your creditors expect.

But jumping past the “approval” step is difficult for many filers. So what can be done to help someone filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy to gain approval? According to a new study, it’s as simple as saying “sorry.”

The study was performed by a pair of college professors who interviewed 137 bankruptcy judges. They presented the judges with a hypothetical case, where a family was seeking Chapter 13. Half of the judges heard the case with an apology included on behalf of the family, while the other half of the judges did not hear the apology.

When the judges were asked to approve or deny the filing, nearly 41 percent of the judges who heard the case with an apology approved the deal, while roughly 34 percent of the judges who did not hear the apology approved it.

Now, is this study conclusive? Absolutely not. In fact, the professors who performed the study stress that the difference in approval ratings is not statistically significant. However, there is something to be said for showing remorse in bankruptcy court.

In almost any other courtroom scenario, it is a widely-held belief that apologizing is an admission of guilt — that it can only hurt you. But in bankruptcy court, your “guilt” (if you want to call it that) is already laid bare. You are applying for bankruptcy; and, inherently, your application says “yes, I made a mistake and I need help to get out of this situation.” Emphasizing that with a genuine apology to the judge presiding over your case could prove beneficial.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Do Apologies Matter in Bankruptcy?,” Katy Stech, Feb. 15, 2013

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