After filing a bankruptcy case, some debtors experience “cold feet.” Some have difficulty facing the trustee at the 341 meeting. Others cannot meet their Chapter 13 plan payment obligations. Still, others are tempted by the promises of a non-bankruptcy resolution, like debt consolidation. Before you back out of your bankruptcy case, make sure that your decision will be in your best interest.
Once you abandon your bankruptcy case, the federal legal protections that prevent your creditors from collecting will expire. Your bankruptcy case prohibits creditors from filing lawsuits, garnishing wages, and calling or otherwise harassing you over your debt. The minute your case is dismissed you become fair game to your creditors.
Failing to complete your bankruptcy case means you will not receive the benefits of a bankruptcy discharge. Once your bankruptcy case is completed, the court issues a bankruptcy discharge which acts as a legal injunction forever prohibiting creditors from collecting from you personally. This protection is extremely powerful and never expires. On the other hand, when your case is dismissed, the creditor may charge you with interest and/or penalties that you did not anticipate.
If you dismiss your case and later re-file, you will have two bankruptcy cases on your credit file. Dismissing a bankruptcy case does not erase the first case from your record and does not lessen its impact on your credit score.
If circumstances change after you file your bankruptcy case, discuss the matter with your attorney. Most problems can be resolved without dismissing the case. For instance, a Chapter 13 debtor who suffers a loss of income may be able to convert the case to a Chapter 7 and receive a discharge without further repayment. In another example, if a Chapter 7 debtor incurs unexpected medical debt, the debtor can convert the case to Chapter 13 and include the new, post-petition medical bills in the Chapter 13 case.
The general rule in bankruptcy is, “Once filed, follow through.” However, every case is different and presents its own challenges. Speak with your attorney and discuss your legal options. You and your attorney can formulate a plan that will benefit you and your family. The Law Office of Michael J. Heath at (757) 431-8665, a Virginia Beach bankruptcy attorney, can explain your legal rights and bankruptcy options.