Can I Reopen My Bankruptcy Case?

Read about common reasons for reopening a bankruptcy case.

By , Attorney

Once you file for bankruptcy relief, there are many steps you must take to complete your case successfully. If you satisfy all requirements, the court will issue a discharge and close your bankruptcy case. But if you don't do everything you are supposed to, the court may dismiss and close your case without a discharge. Fortunately, you can ask the court to reopen your case for a variety of reasons. Read on to learn more about how to reopen your bankruptcy case.

For more information on what happens if the court dismisses your bankruptcy, see When a Bankruptcy Case Is Dismissed.

Can You Reopen a Closed Bankruptcy Case?

In most cases, if you have a valid reason to reopen your bankruptcy, the court will allow you to do so. The court has broad discretion when it comes to whether or not it will reopen your case. Bankruptcy law allows the court to reopen a closed bankruptcy case:

  • to administer the debtor's property
  • to provide relief to the debtor, or
  • for other cause.

Who Can Ask the Court Reopen Your Bankruptcy Case?

The debtor, the bankruptcy trustee, or any party in interest can file a motion with the court to reopen a bankruptcy case. This means that if the trustee discovers any assets you didn't disclose on your bankruptcy paperwork, he or she can ask the court to reopen your case even after your case is closed.

Common Reasons for Reopening a Bankruptcy Case

There are many reasons why you might want to (or have to) reopen your closed bankruptcy case. If the court dismissed your case because of a minor procedural mistake (such as failure to file a necessary form), you can ask the court to reopen your case so that you can fix the error and obtain a discharge. But you might also have to reopen your case if you made a significant mistake on your bankruptcy paperwork (such as omitting a valuable asset) even if you already received a discharge.

In general, the following are some of the most common reasons you might need to reopen your case:

  • you failed to file the mandatory debtor education certificate
  • you didn't list all of your property
  • you want to add a creditor you missed
  • you want to file a motion to avoid a lien on your property, or
  • you need to fix other substantial mistakes on your bankruptcy paperwork.

To learn more about why the court might dismiss your case, see Reasons the Court Might Dismiss Your Bankruptcy Case.

How Do You Reopen a Bankruptcy Case?

The specific procedures you must follow to reopen your case will depend on the local rules in your jurisdiction. But most bankruptcy courts allow debtors to file an ex parte motion (meaning without providing notice to other parties such as their creditors) and explain why they wish to reopen their case.

When you file your motion, you typically must also submit a proposed order for the judge to sign. If the judge believes that your case should be reopened, he or she will sign the order to reopen your case.

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