Can My Bankruptcy Case Be Reopened After I Receive a Discharge?

You, the trustee, or a creditor can ask the court to reopen your bankruptcy case after your case has been closed.

by: , Attorney

If you successfully complete your bankruptcy case, you will receive a discharge that wipes out your personal liability for most types of debt. In most cases, the court will close your case shortly after it enters your discharge. But the court can reopen your bankruptcy case for a variety of reasons even after you receive your discharge. Read on to learn more about why your bankruptcy case may be reopened and who can request that the court reopen it.

When Can Your Bankruptcy Be Reopened?

If someone requests that your bankruptcy case be reopened, the court will do so if there is a good reason. But whether or not your bankruptcy will be reopened is at the court's discretion. In most cases, the court will reopen a closed bankruptcy if:

  • the debtor has additional property or assets that the court must administer
  • the court must give some type of relief to the debtor, or
  • there is another valid reason or cause.

Who can request that your bankruptcy be reopened? In general, you, the bankruptcy trustee, or any other party in interest (such as a creditor) may ask the court to reopen your bankruptcy case. The basis for reopening a bankruptcy will typically depend on which party is making the request (discussed below).

Reasons You Might Want to Reopen Your Bankruptcy

If the court dismisses your bankruptcy because you failed to file a required form or made some other procedural mistake, it's understandable that you might wish to reopen your case to fix the error. But why would you want to reopen your bankruptcy if you have already received a discharge?

In most cases, debtors will ask the court to reopen their bankruptcy case after receiving a discharge if they realize that they made a mistake on the petition (such as forgetting to list an asset) or if they need the court's assistance. Most debtors will ask the court to reopen their bankruptcy if they:

  • accidentally forgot to disclose all of their assets
  • want to add a debt they forgot to list
  • wish to file a motion to avoid a judgment lien
  • want the court to address a violation of their discharge, or
  • need to correct other mistakes on their bankruptcy papers.

Reasons the Trustee or Creditors Might Ask the Court to Reopen Your Bankruptcy

The trustee or your creditors can also ask the court the reopen your bankruptcy after you receive a discharge. In most cases, the trustee or your creditors will want to reopen your case if they:

  • find assets that you didn't disclose in your bankruptcy paperwork
  • were prejudiced (harmed) because they didn't receive notice of your bankruptcy, or
  • discover any other material (significant) mistakes in your bankruptcy petition.

Procedures for Reopening Your Bankruptcy Case

If you want to reopen your bankruptcy, you will need to file a motion to reopen with the court and set forth the reasons you want the court to reopen your case. In many jurisdictions you can file an ex parte motion (meaning without giving notice to other parties) for the court to review. But court rules vary as to whether you can file an ex parte motion -- and they often depend on your reason for reopening your case.

In addition to your motion, you will usually have to submit a proposed order to reopen your case. If the judge agrees with your motion, he or she will sign the order to have your case reopened. But keep in mind that in many situations, after you reopen your case you'll have to file other paperwork to request the relief you seek (such as adding a creditor, filing a motion to avoid a lien, or initiating an adversary proceeding against a creditor for violating your discharge.)

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