Defaulting on your Chapter 13 plan (failing to make payments) has a number of unfavorable consequences. This may result in your creditors obtaining court permission to foreclose on your home or repossess your car. Alternatively, the court may dismiss your case or never approve it at all. Discover some of the potential consequences of failing to make a Chapter 13 repayment plan payment, as well as options for resolving your bankruptcy.
After you file for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will determine whether your proposed repayment plan is feasible. Even though this “confirmation” (approval) process can take several months, you will begin making payments approximately one month after filing and will maintain current monthly plan payments until confirmation. If you do not keep up with your plan payments, your bankruptcy case will be dismissed.
Confirmations are frequently delayed when a trustee or creditor objects to the proposed Chapter 13 plan at the outset. If the confirmed amount is greater than the agreed-upon three- or five-year repayment period, the plan payment will be adjusted to ensure that you can complete the plan within the agreed-upon three- or five-year repayment period.
Creditors Could Be Exempt From the Automatic Stay
When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay is triggered. Except in limited circumstances, the automatic stay prohibits creditors from initiating or continuing collection activities (such as foreclosure or repossession) without first obtaining permission from the bankruptcy court. Due to the fact that the majority of your creditors will be paid through the Chapter 13 plan, they may seek relief from the automatic stay (permission to resume collection activities) if you fall behind on your plan payments. The request is made through the filing of a motion to lift the stay.
You Might Have Your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Dismissed
Even if the court has already confirmed your case, you run the risk of having your case dismissed if you fall behind on your Chapter 13 payments. The bankruptcy trustee will petition the court to dismiss your case for failure to adhere to repayment plan requirements, and if granted, the court will dismiss your case without granting you a discharge of your debts (qualifying debts will remain unaffected).
What Are Your Chances of Avoiding Bankruptcy?
Financial difficulties during the Chapter 13 process are not uncommon. Even if you fall behind on your Chapter 13 payments, your case will not be automatically dismissed. You will still have options for resolving your bankruptcy and regaining possession of your property.
Eliminate Your Default
Even if the Chapter 13 trustee requests that your case be dismissed, you may still petition the court for additional time to cure (catch up on) your default. This is the simplest option if you missed a few payments due to an emergency but are now back on track and ready to begin repaying your debts. The majority of trustees and judges will grant you additional time if you demonstrate that you are capable of making up for missed payments.
Make Changes to Your Chapter 13 Plan
If your circumstances have changed since you filed bankruptcy (for example, if your income has decreased as a result of a layoff), you may petition the court to modify your plan and lower your monthly payments. This, however, may not be possible if the plan is solely used to pay priority debts and secured debts on property you do not wish to surrender. Due to the fact that these debts must be paid in full, the court will be unable to reduce your Chapter 13 plan payments.
Restore Your Bankruptcy Under Chapter 13
Even if the bankruptcy is dismissed by the court, you may be able to reinstate your case. However, you will typically be required to do so immediately following your dismissal, and you will be required to bring your plan payments current.
Convert to Chapter 7 or Obtain an Accelerated Discharge
Additionally, you may be able to convert your Chapter 13 bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 (in which case you will receive a discharge without making any plan payments). To do so, you must demonstrate that you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy because you are no longer able to afford a Chapter 13. However, keep in mind that Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not allow you to discharge priority debts or cure arrearages, so converting may not be in your best interest.
Similarly, you may file for a Chapter 13 hardship discharge early. You would, however, be subject to the same restrictions as Chapter 7.
Represent Yourself in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
In the majority of cases, you can immediately re-file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy following dismissal. However, you may be prohibited from refiling for six months if you violated court orders or voluntarily dismissed your prior case, particularly if a creditor obtains relief from the stay. These types of filing prohibitions occur when the court “with prejudice” dismisses your case. Additionally, if you file a subsequent bankruptcy within a year of your previous one, the automatic stay will be limited to 30 days, and you will need to petition the court to extend it.