From time to time a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case can be dismissed without an individual being granted a discharge.
Typically, the court will “dismiss” a bankruptcy case if the filer has failed to follow the instructions and requirements of the bankruptcy rules.
If a case is dismissed but has not yet been closed, you can ask the court to reinstate your case by filing a motion. If the case was dismissed due to your own fault, you’ll need to show that you corrected whatever mistake caused the case to be dismissed in the first place.
Dismissed ≠ Closed
A dismissal doesn’t “close” the case. That’s why you’re asking the court to reinstate it, not reopen it. If your case has been closed, you can file a motion to reopen the case if appropriate.
The Time Frame for Filing a Motion to Reinstate
The bankruptcy court will send you a written notice about the dismissal. That notice may include a deadline by which to ask for a reinstatement. Either way, plan to file your motion to reinstate within 14 days from the date of the dismissal order, sooner if possible.
The 3 Parts of a Motion to Reinstate
Even though a motion is its own thing, several other documents are submitted to the court along with the motion. Assuming there are no local requirements, at minimum, you’ll need to file:
- A motion to reinstate
- Certificate of Service
- A proposed order granting your motion
A motion to reinstate can be handwritten or filled out on a local form provided by the court, as long as the judge and the court clerk accept it. Your local bankruptcy court may have a local form you can download from their website or obtain a physical copy of from the court. If they do not, you are free to create a handwritten one or one using a computer.
Typically, in order for a judge to accept a motion to reinstate and grant your request to reinstate your bankruptcy case, the motion must include all of the following:
- A title or caption at the top of the page that clearly indicates that the document is a motion to reinstate a dismissed case like the sample shown below:
- Your name and address
- The name of the bankruptcy court including what district the court is in
- Space for the Bankruptcy Clerk to stamp the motion (usually at the top right)
- Your case number
- The date the case was dismissed
- The reason the case was dismissed
- A statement that the case has been dismissed but not closed
- A valid reason why the judge should reinstate the case (normally stating that the debtor has fixed, or is able to fix, the reason for the dismissal)
- A statement requesting the case be reinstated
- Your requested scheduled hearing date
- Filers who file a motion to reinstate should also schedule a hearing date for their motion before or at the time of filing the motion. Search the Bankruptcy Court’s website for specific details on how to schedule a hearing date for your motion or ask the Bankruptcy Clerk whether you are required to schedule a hearing for your motion and what you must do to do so.
- Your signature and the date
What Should Be Submitted with the Motion to Reinstate?
In addition to the motion to reinstate, you should include any documents or attachments showing that you have (or can) fix the issue that caused your bankruptcy case to be dismissed in the first place.
The chart below can help you determine what additional action is needed to reinstate your case.
Note: A case can be dismissed for more than one reason. Be sure to check your docket for any deficiencies or notices of missing documents that will need to be submitted to reinstate your case. All missing documents and payments should be submitted to the court at the same time the motion is filed. Here are some common reasons (and what you can do about it):
Reason for Dismissal
What you can do to remedy.
Missed a filing fee installment or other payment
Bring the entire amount the court said is due. No partial payments!
Missed 341 meeting
Call or email the trustee right away to inform them you are filing a motion to reinstate, explain why you missed the meeting and ask to schedule a new 341 meeting.
Deficiency / missing forms
Bring the forms the court asked you to submit and file them at the same time you file your motion to reinstate.
Failure to submit documents to the trustee
Submit requested tax returns, pay stubs or other documents to the trustee by mail or email.
Certificate of Service
A certificate of service is a signed pledge that the filer will serve a copy of their motion to reinstate, along with all exhibits or attachments, on all the creditors listed in their creditor matrix.
The typical certificate of service includes your name, the date the document was sent and who it was sent to. If the motion is sent to multiple creditors you can attach a list of the creditors to the certificate of service along with a statement that every creditor on the list has been sent a copy of the motion and the certificate of service:
I,______(Your Name)___________, certify that on __(Date)___, I mailed this document by first-class mail to my bankruptcy trustee __(trustee name and address)______ and the attached list of creditors. I declare under penalty of perjury that the statements made in this certification of service are true and correct.
The attached list of creditors should include the name and address of each creditor. Similar to how your creditors are listed on the creditor matrix.
The Proposed Order
A proposed order granting your motion to reinstate is the second document that should be included along with the motion to reinstate. The order is what the judge signs and submits to the Court Clerk stating that they have granted your motion, and are ordering that your bankruptcy case be reinstated. Some judges may not require that you include your own order, but if you have access to one you can still include one.
What Are the Required Components of An Order to Reinstate?
This is up to the judge's discretion. At a minimum your proposed order should include a heading that reads “Order Granting Debtor’s Motion to Reinstate.” This can be followed by a simple paragraph stating “The debtor’s motion to reinstate is hereby granted.” You do not need to write the word “proposed” in the order. You may also be able to obtain a blank order, like this one from the District of New Jersey, from the Court Clerk’s office.
Who Must the Motion to Reinstate Be Sent To?
The motion to reinstate must be filed with the Clerk of the Court and copies sent to the judge assigned to your case, the assigned trustee and every creditor listed on your creditor matrix.
Is That All?
Some districts may have strict formatting guidelines for motions and orders or require you to include an unsworn declaration paragraph which states that under penalty of perjury, you swear or affirm that the information on the submitted documents are true. If you are creating your own motion to reinstate, call the court clerk’s office to verify if these details or others are required before filing your motion.
Finally, after the motion to reinstate has been filed with the court you should mail copies of the motion, and all exhibits or attachments, to every creditor listed on the creditor matrix, and your assigned trustee and the local United States Trustee’s office. You will be notified of the judge’s decision by mail or through electronic notification from the court. Once a case is reinstated you should continue attending scheduled hearings, paying the filing fee on time and submitting documents as normal.
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