Can You Re-File a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy After Dismissal?

August 31, 2011

 A Chapter 13 bankruptcy case will generally last three to five years. A lot can happen in that time, especially for an individual who is attempting to deal with serious financial difficulties. In some cases, a financial setback can cause a Chapter 13 debtor to be unable to pay the monthly Chapter 13 plan payments or perhaps payments to a secured creditor. Since the practical effect of the Chapter 13 plan stretches the debtor’s finances thin, a financial hiccup can be a death blow to a Chapter 13 case.

If you get behind on your plan payments, it is important to discuss your situation with your bankruptcy attorney. If you simply miss one payment to the bankruptcy trustee, you may be able to ask permission from the court to skip a plan payment. More than one missed payment will have to be paid to continue your bankruptcy. If your case is dismissed due to your inability to make your plan payments, you will generally be able to reinstate the case after paying all due plan payments, or you may choose to re-file your Chapter 13 case.

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Re-filing your case can get complicated. If you get behind on post-bankruptcy payments to a secured creditor, the creditor may file a request for relief from the automatic stay. You are generally ineligible to file bankruptcy for 180 days if your case is dismissed by the court either for failure to obey a court order or via a voluntary dismissal after a motion for relief from the automatic stay has been filed.

Additionally, in 2005 Congress enacted new laws to combat “serial” filers who abuse the bankruptcy laws by filing consecutive bankruptcy cases to frustrate creditors. Essentially, if you file a bankruptcy case within one year of an earlier dismissed case, the automatic stay in the second case terminates 30 days after the filing, unless you are able to demonstrate that the second case was filed in good faith. A subsequent case filed within the same one-year period penalizes the debtor by foregoing the automatic stay entirely, until the debtor shows that this third filing was made in good faith.

If you have trouble making payments to the trustee or to a secured creditor during your Chapter 13 bankruptcy, contact your bankruptcy attorney and discuss your options. Your attorney is able to propose solutions to protect your property and help remedy your financial troubles.

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