There are many reasons the court might dismiss your bankruptcy case. Most dismissals are without prejudice --meaning you can file again right away. But if you disobey court orders or abuse the bankruptcy process, your bankruptcy may be dismissed with prejudice. If the judge dismisses your case with prejudice, the dismissal order might prohibit you from:
- filing another bankruptcy case for a certain period of time, or
- discharging (eliminating) any debts that you could have wiped out in the dismissed case in a subsequent bankruptcy.
To learn more about what happens if the court dismisses your bankruptcy, including information about dismissals without prejudice, see our topic area on When Your Bankruptcy Case Is Dismissed.
What Happens If the Court Dismisses Your Bankruptcy With Prejudice?
If your bankruptcy is dismissed with prejudice, it can mean that you are not allowed to file for bankruptcy again for a specified amount of time or that in a subsequent bankruptcy you can’t eliminate the debts you could have discharged in the dismissed case.
The Bankruptcy Code provides that you can’t file another bankruptcy within 180 days after your previous case was dismissed if:
- the court dismissed your bankruptcy because you willfully failed to obey court orders, or
- you voluntarily asked the court to dismiss your case after a creditor filed a motion for relief from the automatic stay.
But in general, bankruptcy judges have broad discretion when entering dismissal orders in order to prevent bankruptcy fraud and abuse. If your bankruptcy is dismissed with prejudice, the specific consequences will depend on the judge’s order. Depending on the severity of your misconduct, the judge can order you not to file another bankruptcy case for longer than 180 days or forever bar you from discharging any debts that could have been included in the dismissed bankruptcy.
Reasons the Court Might Dismiss Your Bankruptcy With Prejudice
After you file for bankruptcy, you must follow all bankruptcy rules and court procedures in order to successfully complete your case. If you fail to do everything you are supposed to, the court can dismiss your case without a discharge of your debts.
Most bankruptcy dismissals occur because of procedural mistakes such as not filing the appropriate forms with the court or missing deadlines. If the court dismisses your case for a minor procedural reason, chances are the dismissal will be without prejudice -- meaning that you can immediately refile another bankruptcy case.
But the court will likely dismiss your bankruptcy case with prejudice if you:
- commit bankruptcy fraud by hiding assets or lying on your bankruptcy papers
- file numerous bankruptcy cases to delay or hinder your creditors
- willfully disobey the court’s orders, or
- otherwise abuse the bankruptcy process.
For more information on other reasons your bankruptcy may be dismissed, see Reasons the Trustee or Court Might Dismiss Your Bankruptcy Case.
What Can You Do If the Court Dismisses Your Bankruptcy With Prejudice?
If the court placed a time limit on when you can file another bankruptcy case, you can simply wait until the required amount of time passes and then refile your case. If the judge prohibited you from discharging the debts included in your dismissed bankruptcy, you might consider appealing the judge’s decision to a higher court for review. But be aware that you will typically need an attorney to guide you through the appeals process and you might not prevail unless you can prove that the bankruptcy court judge made a legal error.