If you file a bankruptcy in bad faith or otherwise try to abuse the bankruptcy system, your case may be dismissed with prejudice. Depending on the judge’s order in your particular case, a dismissal with prejudice can:
- bar you from filing another bankruptcy for a specified period of time, or
- forever prohibit you from discharging any debts that could have been discharged in the dismissed bankruptcy.
Reasons Why Your Bankruptcy May Be Dismissed
When you file for bankruptcy, there are certain requirements you must satisfy before you can complete your case and receive a discharge. Most bankruptcy cases are dismissed because of the debtor’s failure to file the correct forms, abide by deadlines, or attend mandatory hearings such as
Since these are typically procedural issues rather than an active abuse of the bankruptcy system, most bankruptcy dismissals are without prejudice. This means that you can immediately file another bankruptcy case and discharge the same debts included in the first filing (but keep in mind that you may need to file a motion to extend or impose the automatic stay in the subsequent case).
However, the court can also dismiss your bankruptcy for more egregious reasons like committing bankruptcy fraud, filing multiple cases in bad faith to delay creditors, willfully disobeying court orders, and abusing the bankruptcy system. In that case, your bankruptcy may be dismissed with prejudice (discussed below).
What Is Dismissal With Prejudice?
In general, a dismissal with prejudice can restrict when you can file another bankruptcy or completely prohibit you from discharging any debts that could have been wiped out in the dismissed case. Bankruptcy law states that a debtor may not file another bankruptcy within 180 days of a prior case if:
- the case was dismissed because of the debtor’s willful failure to follow court orders, or
- the debtor voluntarily requested dismissal of the case after the filing of a motion for relief from the automatic stay.
In addition, bankruptcy judges have broad discretion to dismiss your bankruptcy with prejudice for cause. If you file for bankruptcy in bad faith with the intent to hide assets, delay creditors, or otherwise abuse the bankruptcy system, the judge can preclude you from filing another bankruptcy for much longer than 180 days or forever bar you from discharging any debts that were dischargeable in the dismissed case. In general, how harsh the penalty will be depends on how egregious the acts were.
What Happens If Your Bankruptcy Is Dismissed With Prejudice?
The answer depends on what the judge ordered in your particular case. If your case was dismissed with prejudice for a short period of time (such as 180 days), you can simply file again after the deadline has passed. If the judge ordered a much longer bar or prohibited you from discharging any debts that could have been wiped out in the dismissed case, you can choose to appeal the decision and have it reviewed by a higher court. But keep in mind that appeals can be costly and to succeed you must prove that the judge made a legal error.