Bankruptcy / Chapter 13 / Dismissal

Chapter 13 Dismissal Refund and Your Options

Written by Ben Tejes
Updated Oct 11th, 2023

Chapter 13 dismissal can lead to collection calls restarting and debt collectors pounding on your phones. For example, a Chapter 13 dismissal will show on your public record. While you may receive a refund, you should consider thinking about your Chapter 13 dismissal options to make the most informed decision to get out of debt.

There are many valid reasons why you can't complete your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, especially if you recently became unemployed.  Common issues include payments that are too high, unemployment, illness, or financial hardship. Sadly, there are consequences for not completing a Chapter 13 plan. This article discusses those consequences, your next options, and whether you can get a  Chapter 13 dismissal refund.  

1) How Does a Chapter 13 Dismissal Refund Work?

A Chapter 13 trustee can hold any money that remains undistributed to creditors. This money returns to the debtor after a Chapter 13 dismissal. Have you not received your refund? See your options below. The Chapter 13 trustee must file a detailed accounting with the court before returning any money to the debtor. The court allows the Chapter 13 trustee to first deduct any administrative fees before returning the funds. It could take several weeks or months to receive a Chapter 13 refund after dismissal. 

Also, your bankruptcy attorney may make a claim on those funds for unpaid professional fees. In some cases, the refund could also be subject to a wage garnishment order or an IRS levy.  This is because the bankruptcy automatic stay is no longer in effect after a dismissal. Without the stay, creditors can start taking action to collect their debt again. 

2) You Need to Understand Your Chapter 13 Dismissal Options

As debt collectors may be able to see in the public records when a Chapter 13 is dismissed, you should consider understanding your options after Chapter 13 dismissal.

You have several options for debt relief after a Chapter 13 dismissal. You can re-file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. However, depending on the reason for the dismissal, the automatic stay may not go into effect without filing an additional motion with the court. There could also be a penalty period before the automatic stay becomes effective. During this time, creditors could continue to pursue actions to collect debts. Also, the dismissal of a Chapter 13 case with prejudice may result in a mandatory waiting period to re-file bankruptcy. 

Regardless, we built the following debt relief options calculator to help you compare your different options once your Chapter 13 has been dismissed. The most common may be debt settlement or converting to a Chapter 7 before a dismissal. The Debt Relief Options calculator uses bankruptcy forms to estimate whether you would qualify for a Chapter 7.  We provided some additional information below the calculator for you to review.

Converting to Chapter 7 Before a Chapter 13 Dismissal

You might have the option to convert to Chapter 7 before the dismissal of your Chapter 13 case. Converting to Chapter 7 can erase debts quickly. However, some risks exist with converting to Chapter 7. 

Assets with equity could be at risk of being sold by the Chapter 7 trustee unless a bankruptcy exemption protects the equity. In some cases, it might be worth losing an asset to get rid of debts quickly in Chapter 7. However, you should carefully analyze your risk of losing property before converting to Chapter 7. You can get more information about the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process in our Chapter 7 overview.

3) What are Common Reasons for a Chapter 13 Dismissal?

A Chapter 13 plan is typically a 60-month commitment. Some individuals may qualify for a 36-month bankruptcy plan. In either case, three to five years is a long time to be in bankruptcy. Many things can happen during that time. Some common reasons for Chapter 13 case dismissals include:

  • Voluntary dismissal — A Chapter 13 case is a voluntary repayment plan. A debtor (the person who files for bankruptcy relief) can quit Chapter 13 at any time.
  • Missed Chapter 13 payments — If you miss your Chapter 13 payments, the courts will dismiss your case. However, most bankruptcy attorneys calculate Chapter 13 plans with a little bit of room that allows for a suspension of payments for three months in case of a hardship. The Chapter 13 trustee and the bankruptcy judge examine the reason for the request very carefully before granting a 3-month deferral of Chapter 13 payments.
  • Failing to attend hearings — If you do not attend your 341 First Meeting of Creditors hearing or any other Chapter 13 hearing, the court may dismiss the case.
  • Failure to complete bankruptcy courses — You must complete two bankruptcy courses as part of your bankruptcy case — the Credit Counseling Course and the Debtor Education Course. 
  • Failing to file required tax returns — Debtors must file all required income tax returns or other tax returns as scheduled.
  • Failure to file all bankruptcy forms — You must complete and file your bankruptcy forms. Failing to file any required form could result in a dismissal of the Chapter 13 case.
  • Failure to submit required documents to the Chapter 13 trustee — The Chapter 13 trustee may require certain documents. Failing to submit the documents could result in dismissal. 
  • Meeting deadlines — There are numerous deadlines in a Chapter 13 case. Failing to meet any deadline set by the court or by the Bankruptcy Code could result in a Chapter 13 dismissal.

4) What is the Consequence of a Chapter 13 Dismissal?

When a Chapter 13 case is dismissed, your debts are not discharged or forgiven. In other words, you owe all the debts you did when you entered bankruptcy. 

Your creditors must give you credit for any payments they received from the Chapter 13 trustee. However, your creditors can begin collection efforts as soon as your bankruptcy case is dismissed. Collection efforts can include: calling you, sending you letters, filing debt collection lawsuits, wage garnishments, repossessions, and foreclosures. 

Get Help Deciding Between Debt Relief Options

When a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is dismissed, your creditors may start to contact you to collect the debt that was previously due. Take the Chapter 13 dismissal options calculator below to understand your options, estimate costs, and compare the pros and cons to make the most informed decision.