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Can You Refile for Bankruptcy After a Prior Case Is Dismissed?

Bankruptcy cases can be dismissed by courts for a variety of reasons. The reasons for the dismissal have a direct bearing on the debtor’s prospects for filing a new petition. A dismissal without prejudice allows the debtor to file a new case right away. A dismissal with prejudice generally requires the debtor to wait a specific time period before refiling, and in some cases might prevent the debtor from ever again seeking bankruptcy protection against the debts involved.

A bankruptcy judge can dismiss a case without prejudice if the debtor makes an innocent mistake or oversight. Examples include:

  • Missing an important procedural deadline
  • Submitting incorrect or incomplete forms or inadequate supporting documents
  • Failing to attend the creditors’ meeting or a required court appearance
  • Failing to complete a required debtor education course
  • Failing to make monthly payments in a Chapter 13 case.

Although you can file a new petition immediately after a dismissal without prejudice, the automatic stay that takes effect will last only 30 days unless the court grants an extension. If you had multiple petitions dismissed within the year prior to the new filing, there will be no automatic stay unless the court grants one based on a motion filed by your bankruptcy attorney.

Bankruptcy judges can dismiss cases with prejudice for more serious misconduct. Common grounds for this type of dismissal are:

  • Abuse of process — Debtors might file for bankruptcy merely to take advantage of the automatic stay with no intention to follow through on the case. For example, they might seek to withdraw the petition after a creditor files a motion for relief from the stay. Abuse of process also includes willfully disobeying court orders.
  • Attempted fraud — This includes making material misstatements to the court, to creditors or to other interested parties.
  • Concealing assets — This includes hiding assets in secret accounts or locations as well as giving away property or selling it at less than fair value in order to keep it away from creditors.

A dismissal with prejudice based on abuse of process normally means you must wait 180 days before filing a new petition. If the dismissal is based on fraud or concealing assets, the court may order a longer waiting time. In cases of flagrant misconduct, the court can impose a permanent ban on discharging the debts covered by the original petition.

Jeff Field & Associates, with six offices in the Atlanta, Marietta and Athens, Georgia areas, handles a wide range of bankruptcy and debt relief matters. Feel free to contact us online or call 404-381-1278 for a free initial consultation.

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