Can I file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy more than once?
Each year, over 800,000 people file for bankruptcy in federal court. Bankruptcy serves as an important vehicle for consumers and businesses to be able to reduce or eliminate their debt so as to start anew financially. At times, bankruptcy filers will find that they need to file for bankruptcy a second time. This could be due to a financial downturn, loss of a job, a serious illness, or any other number of factors. While there is no limit to the number of times you can file for bankruptcy, there are time limits on how long you must wait to file and receive a discharge of your debts. These time limits change depending on the type of bankruptcy you previously filed for and the filing you now seek.
Filing for Chapter 7 Again
If you have already filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and successfully received a discharge, you will need to wait eight years from the date of the previous filing before you can receive another discharge in Chapter 7. Those who continue to suffer from debt after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy may wish to instead consider filing for Chapter 13, which you can do sooner.
Chapter 20 Bankruptcy
If you received a discharge under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and be eligible for discharge if you file at least four years after the date of your Chapter 7 discharge. This is often referred to as a Chapter 20 bankruptcy. A Chapter 20 bankruptcy can be a useful strategy for catching up on large secured debts, like your mortgage or car payment.
Filing for Chapter 13 Twice
If you completed a Chapter 13 discharge, you will need to wait two years from the date on which the first Chapter 13 case was filed in order to file for Chapter 13 again. Given the three to five years that it takes to complete a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can usually file for Chapter 13 again immediately after your first case is closed.
Filing for Chapter 7 After Chapter 13
Lastly, if you previously received a discharge in a Chapter 13 action, you will need to typically wait six years to file for Chapter 7, unless you paid back all of your unsecured debts in the Chapter 13 filing or you repaid at least 70 percent of said debts and your plan was proposed in good faith.
There are exceptions to these general rules and some filers may need to wait longer. Contact a bankruptcy attorney for assistance with filing for bankruptcy a second time around.