My bankruptcy case was just dismissed because I forgot a filing fee payment. What do I do?

It depends. You can either:

  1. pay the filing fee and file a motion to vacate the dismissal, or
  2. file a new case and pay the full filing fee up front.

So when I file a case, I can file an Application to Pay Filing Fees in Installments with the bankruptcy court.  This allows you to pay the $338 (for a Chapter 7) or the $313 (for a Chapter 13) with the court over two or three installments AFTER file the bankruptcy case.

The biggest problem occurs when you forget to make one of the payments.  When you miss a payment, the case is automatically dismissed, and this administrative dismissal removes your bankruptcy protection.  The Automatic Stay is gone, which means that creditors can now call, sue, garnish, levy, and foreclose.  This is a pretty bad thing.

You get two options here:

  1. I can file a Motion to Vacate Dismissal, or
  2. We can file a new case.

Motion to Vacate Dismissal

I can file a Motion to Vacate Dismissal (which means that the Court “takes back” its dismissal and reinstates the case), but the hearing is usually about 25 days away, I may not be able to file it right away, and your creditors can start hitting you again during that 25 day waiting period.

So yes, you can pay the filing fee in installments, but if you miss one, all hell breaks loose, and it takes forever (25 days seems like forever when you’re waiting) to clean up.

The hard choice comes when you were facing garnishment originally. You probably filed that case quickly to stop a garnishment, and when the case is dismissed, the creditor can start garnishing you again, immediately. However, this is not automatic. They need to realize that your case was dismissed and notify your payroll office to start up the garnishment again.

File a New Case

We can file a new case right away to stop garnishment, but this is usually a bad idea. When you do this, you have to pay those filing fees again. Even worse, you now have 2 bankruptcies on your credit. They will sit on your credit as public records for the next 7-10 years.

But, I have had rare situations where a new case really was the best route. You’ll need to talk to your attorney about this one.