Can a bankruptcy case be reopened?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Yes, a bankruptcy case can be reopened in order to take care of new matters that crop up after the case. Section 350 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code permits a bankruptcy judge to reopen “to administer assets, accord relief to the debtor, or for other cause.”  For example, if a debtor receives an inheritance, a life insurance payout, or a divorce settlement within 180 days after filing, the case might need to be reopened to administer those assets.   A debtor might want to reopen the case to obtain an order discharging a debt when a creditor keeps pursuing. The bankruptcy court can impose sanctions on a collector that continues attempts to collect a discharged debt. The trustee might seek to reopen the case if it becomes apparent that a debtor lied on their petition, omitted or concealed property, and so forth. A debtor may seek to reopen a case to add a creditor that was missed in the original bankruptcy paperwork.

If you forgot to file the certificate of completion of the mandatory credit counseling course (Form 23) with the bankruptcy court, you can ask the court to reopen your case for the purpose of filing the required document.

Most bankruptcy courts now have forms online that you can use to re-open your case. A motion to re-open also comes with filing fees that range from $200-$1167, depending on the type of bankruptcy that you originally filed. The “for other cause” section gives bankruptcy judges wide latitude on whether or not they will approve your request to re-open your bankruptcy. In the end, it is still at the judge’s discretion. Before you open a can of worms, consult with an attorney to make sure that re-opening is your best option.

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