Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13
Eligible individuals can file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation process that involves selling your property to raise funds to repay your creditors. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is fairly quick, taking about four months to complete from the date you file your bankruptcy petition to when you receive the bankruptcy discharge. In contrast, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy creates a repayment plan that allows you to keep your property while you make monthly payments to the bankruptcy trustee to go toward your debt. Most repayment plans take three to five years to complete. Whether you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will affect your ability to add an omitted creditor to your bankruptcy case.
A debt that is not included in your bankruptcy case will not receive a bankruptcy discharge at the conclusion of your case. A discharge means that the debt is no longer legally enforceable. For example, if the bankruptcy court refuses to let you amend your bankruptcy petition to include the omitted creditor, that debt will not be discharged. Therefore, you will still be responsible for repaying the debt and the creditor can enforce the debt by filing a lawsuit against you.
Amend the Bankruptcy Petition
You may be able to amend your bankruptcy petition to add an omitted creditor. An amendment to a bankruptcy petition allows you to add the excluded creditor and involves refilling the schedule that contains the omission. If you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may not need to amend your entire bankruptcy petition. Rather, you can just add the forgotten creditor to your payment plan. If you have already received a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge, you might have trouble adding an omitted creditor to your bankruptcy case. However, you might be able to file a motion to have the case reopened to include the debt.
Reopening a Bankruptcy
You might be able to reopen a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case if certain circumstances exist. For example, Section 350 of the Bankruptcy Code allows the court to reopen a case to provide relief to a debtor. Courts have reopened bankruptcy cases to allow debtors to add omitted creditors in no-asset Chapter 7 cases in which the creditor was omitted without fraudulent intent. A Chapter 7 no-asset case means there are few to no assets to sell to raise funds to repay creditors. To reopen a case, you must file a motion with the court requesting the case be reopened and the reasons for such a request.