If the court dismisses your bankruptcy without prejudice, it means that you can refile your case right away. But you will typically have to fix your mistakes and also file a motion to extend or impose the automatic stay in your new bankruptcy. Read on to learn more about what happens if your case is dismissed without prejudice and how it can affect the automatic stay in your subsequent bankruptcy filing.
For more information on what to do if the court dismisses your bankruptcy, see our topic area on When Your Bankruptcy Case Is Dismissed.
What Does It Mean If the Court Dismisses Your Bankruptcy Without Prejudice?
When you file for bankruptcy relief, you must satisfy certain requirements to complete your case and obtain a discharge. If you don’t complete all the necessary steps, the court can dismiss your case with or without prejudice.
While it can be frustrating to have your bankruptcy case dismissed, a dismissal without prejudice is much better than one with prejudice. This is because if the court dismisses your bankruptcy without prejudice, it means that you can immediately file another bankruptcy case (as long as you are otherwise eligible). Luckily, unless you abuse the bankruptcy process or willfully disobey court orders, most bankruptcy dismissals are without prejudice.
Common Reasons the Court Might Dismiss Your Bankruptcy Without Prejudice
In most cases, if you simply make a procedural mistake (and not try to abuse the bankruptcy system), the court will dismiss your bankruptcy without prejudice. Except in rare circumstances, the court will typically dismiss your case without prejudice if you:
- fail to file a required form with the court
- fail to provide all necessary supporting documents (such as tax returns and pay stubs) to the bankruptcy trustee
- don’t appear at a mandatory court hearing such as the meeting of creditors or the Chapter 13 bankruptcy confirmation hearing
- fail to pay the court filing fees
- don’t meet all eligibility requirements for the type of bankruptcy you wish to file (for example if you have too much debt to qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy)
- don’t complete the mandatory credit counseling course prior to filing your case
- fail to make your Chapter 13 plan payments, or
- commit any other minor procedural error.
To learn more about why the court might dismiss your bankruptcy, see Reasons the Trustee or Court Might Dismiss Your Bankruptcy Case.
The Automatic Stay Might Be Limited If You Refile Your Bankruptcy
When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect and prohibits most creditors from initiating or continuing collection activities against you. To discourage debtors from filing for bankruptcy simply to delay or hinder their creditors, bankruptcy laws impose certain limits on the automatic stay if you file multiple bankruptcy cases.
If the court dismisses your bankruptcy and you file another case within one year, the automatic stay in your new bankruptcy will expire 30 days after your filing date. If you had two or more pending bankruptcies that were dismissed within the past year, there will be no automatic stay if you refile.
If you refile and want to extend or impose the automatic stay in your new bankruptcy, you must file a motion with the court and prove that you filed the case in good faith.
For more information on how the automatic stay works and how to file a motion to extend or impose the stay, see our topic area on Bankruptcy’s Automatic Stay.