Can You File for Bankruptcy More Than Once?

Filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a pretty major ordeal. A lot goes into the process, and financial stress usually builds before the decision to file is made. For many people, bankruptcy is not something they want to repeat again anytime soon.

Yet, financial emergencies, economic instability, and the ever-changing future can cause people to face financial duress more than once in a lifetime. This can lead to scenarios where bankruptcy may be a consideration, even if you’ve filed before.

While the bankruptcy system does limit how quickly you can file after a previous bankruptcy, it doesn’t offer any limitations on how many times you can file for bankruptcy.

Did You Recently Have a Bankruptcy Case Dismissed?

One of the questions you have to answer to understand whether you can file for bankruptcy again after a recent filing is what the outcome of your case was.

For example, you likely won’t be able to successfully file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case for 180 days after a previous bankruptcy case was dismissed for either of the following reasons:

  • You voluntarily agreed to dismiss the case after creditors sought relief against you
  • The case was dismissed because you willfully did not comply with any court order or show up for required hearings

The same is true for Chapter 13 cases.

Whether or not you received a discharge for certain debts in a previous case may also impact your ability to file for bankruptcy again or include those debts in a new filing.

Could the Court See You as Abusing the Process?

If the bankruptcy court views your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 petition as frivolous or abusive, it may not allow the petition to move forward.

For example, you can’t typically routinely file bankruptcy petitions that you know will be unsuccessful simply to buy time or stretch out a lawsuit against you for a debt. You also can’t purposefully run up debt only to file bankruptcy when you’re next eligible so you don’t have to pay it back.

How Soon Can You File for Bankruptcy Again After Debts Are Discharged in a Previous Case?

How soon you can file for bankruptcy after having debts discharged in a previous bankruptcy case depends on numerous factors, including the type of bankruptcy you filed before and the type you are filing now.

Filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy After a Chapter 7

Generally, you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy eight years from the date of your previous filing. The clock on this starts at the petition filing date. So, for example, if someone filed a Chapter 7 on May 1, 2020, and the bankruptcy was successfully completed and debt discharge received, they would be eligible to file another Chapter 7 bankruptcy on May 1, 2028.

Filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy After a Chapter 13

The rules get a bit more complex when considering a Chapter 7 following a successfully completed Chapter 13. The amount of time you have to wait between filings depends on the nature of your Chapter 13 repayment plan.

If the repayment plan involved paying all included creditors in full, there is no waiting period. You would be eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy at any time after the Chapter 13 discharge. The same is true if you repaid 70% or more of the amount due to creditors in your previous Chapter 13.

However, if you repaid less than 70% of your debt in your Chapter 13 and received a discharge for the rest, then you are not eligible to file a Chapter 13 until six years after you filed the Chapter 13 petition.

Since Chapter 13 bankruptcies can take three to five years, a hypothetical situation could look like this:

  • The Chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed on September 1, 2020.
  • The Chapter 13 bankruptcy discharge is completed and the case is closed around September 2025.
  • The individual would be eligible to file Chapter 7 in September 2026.

Filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy After a Chapter 7

To be eligible to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must wait four years from the date you filed the Chapter 7.

Filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy After a Chapter 13

This is the least common scenario, but it does happen sometimes. In this case, you are generally eligible to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy two years or more after the date of the previous Chapter 13 filing. However, whether or not you’re still in a repayment plan is obviously a factor.

Talk to a Bankruptcy Attorney to Understand Your Options

While the timelines above provide some guidance on how quickly you can file for bankruptcy after a previous filing, there are exceptions to some rules and the details of each case matter. To best understand what your options are, consider talking to an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

They can help you understand whether you can file for bankruptcy and when. An attorney can also provide guidance about the types of bankruptcy and which might be right for your situation. Even if you aren’t eligible for bankruptcy, there may be other legal debt relief options you can consider, and an attorney can help you understand those as well.

If you are considering bankruptcy, for the first or second time, reach out to the Holland Law Office. We can provide information about your options and help you through the process. Call our team at 970-232-3097.