How and When to Reopen a Bankruptcy Case

Sometimes people want to reopen a closed bankruptcy case because they failed to invoke important procedures while their bankruptcy case was open.

Fortunately it’s usually possible to reopen the bankruptcy and play catch-up. Common reasons for wanting to reopen a bankruptcy case include:

  • failing to timely file an Official Form 23 (pre-discharge counseling certification)
  • failing to name an important creditor or list valuable property, or
  • failing to take necessary steps to remove a judgment lien from real estate.

The process for reopening a bankruptcy case involves two steps.

Step One: Ex Parte Motion to Reopen. The first step is what’s known as an ex-parte motion to reopen the case. This is a request to the judge that the case be reopened without giving advance notice to the creditors or scheduling a hearing. The paperwork, which consists of the motion or request, and an order granting the request, is pretty simple and widely available, both in Nolo’s How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, by Albin Renauer, Steve Elias, and Robin Leonard, and various bankruptcy lawyer websites.

Step Two: Request for the Desired Action. The second step is to request (by motion and order) that the judge allow the desired action, for instance the removal of a judicial lien on real estate, or the entry of an order of discharge.

The fee for reopening a bankruptcy case is $274, so it’s obviously less expensive to get everything done while you case is open. However, if you are trying to remove a lien worth many thousands of dollars, or asking for a discharge an expensive student loan, the fee to reopen the case is relatively unimportant.

By Steve Elias