The most common goal in bankruptcy is the discharge; however the discharge is not every debtor’s goal. For some, the goal of bankruptcy may be to use the automatic stay to postpone a legal action, like a foreclosure or a lawsuit, while the debtor negotiates a settlement. For others, it may mean buying time to refinance a debt. When the objective is met, these debtors want to dismiss the bankruptcy case. The bankruptcy code contains special provisions for dismissing a bankruptcy case.
A Chapter 7 debtor is not able to dismiss the case without the permission of the bankruptcy judge. If the case does not contain assets (a “no asset case”), approval is easy to obtain. On the other hand, if the case is an asset case and creditors will receive money, the trustee will likely object to the dismissal and request permission to distribute the asset proceeds to your creditors. This is important for a Chapter 7 debtor who receives a large sum of money like an unexpected inheritance. The debtor cannot just say “forget it” and walk away from the bankruptcy case and keep the money.
A Chapter 13 debtor has an absolute right to dismiss the bankruptcy case. The theory behind this is that a debtor should be able to stop the bankruptcy and repay creditors on his or her own terms. The bankruptcy court will still look at whether the debtor is acting in good faith. If the debtor is not acting in good faith, the case may be converted involuntarily to a Chapter 7.
While the discharge remains the crown jewel of the bankruptcy process, it is not the only reason to consider a personal bankruptcy. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can discuss the advantages of the federal bankruptcy code and how it can help you and your situation. Your bankruptcy attorney can work with you to plan your strategy to eliminate debt and reorganize your finances.