The bankruptcy court may dismiss a case for a number of reasons, including failure to file paperwork, failure to meet deadlines, or failure to propose a feasible repayment plan. In these types of situations, the court will likely dismiss the case without prejudice. However, in some situations, such as when the person filing commits bankruptcy fraud, the court can dismiss the case with prejudice.
(To learn more about what happens in bankruptcy cases, visit our Bankruptcy Procedures topic area.)
What Does "Dismissed With Prejudice" Mean?
If your case is dismissed without prejudice, you can try again and refile it right away. If your case is dismissed withprejudice, you cannot refile -- the dismissal is absolute until the court says you can file again. The court may dismiss your case with prejudice and bar you from filing a new case for a specified period of time (typically six months to a year, but sometimes longer, and in rare cases, the bar lasts forever), or the court could prohibit you from discharging certain debts that would have been discharged had your case not been dismissed.
Example. Derek files bankruptcy; the court determines that Derek committed fraud and dismisses his case with prejudice. The court enters an order stating that Derek cannot file another bankruptcy for 180 days from the date of the dismissal. Derek cannot make any attempts to reopen the case and must wait the 180 days before seeking bankruptcy relief again.
Example. Tina files bankruptcy fraudulently. She has $100,000 in credit card debt. The court dismisses her case with prejudice, entering an order stating that if she ever files bankruptcy again, the $100,000 in credit card debt will be nondischargeable, meaning whe won't be able to wipe it out.
What to Do if Your Bankruptcy Case is Dismissed with Prejudice
If your case is dismissed with prejudice:
- If you have a time bar (you cannot file a new case for a certain number of days), you can wait the specified amount of time and refile a new case.
- If you have a discharge bar (the court has ruled that your debts cannot be discharged in any subsequent bankruptcies), you can file an appeal and request that the District Court review the bankruptcy judge's decision. If you choose to file an appeal, be aware of the expense involved -- in addition to filing fees, you will need to pay attorney fees. You may also not be successful, as you will have to prove to the District Court judge that the bankruptcy judge made a legal error, which is a difficult standard to meet.