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How Often Can You File Bankruptcy?

Being one of the first people to answer the phone at our office, I often get asked "How often can I file Bankruptcy?" and "If I filed Bankruptcy a couple years ago, how long do I have to wait until I can file again?" In this post, I will breakdown all the laws for how often you can file.

First and foremost, there are no restrictions on the number of times a person can file for bankruptcy relief. However, there are limits on how many times someone can receive a Bankruptcy discharge, or a complete relief of debt.

When it comes to filing more than one bankruptcy, the thing that really matters is timing. If your debts were discharged in a previous bankruptcy, you must wait a certain amount of time before you will be entitled to a discharge again. Whether you can file another bankruptcy and receive a discharge depends on a few different factors:

  • the type of bankruptcy previously filed
  • the date the previous bankruptcy was filed
  • whether the previous bankruptcy was discharged, dismissed, or dismissed with prejudice

Time restrictions on when you are eligible for another discharge depend on whether you previously received a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 discharge and the type of bankruptcy you want to file now. According to alllaw.com these are the bankruptcy filing guidelines:

  • Chapter 7 to Chapter 7: If you have already received a discharge in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must wait eight years from the date you filed the previous case before you can file another Chapter 7 and receive a discharge.
  • Chapter 13 to Chapter 13: If your debts were discharged in a prior Chapter 13 case, you cannot receive a discharge in a subsequent Chapter 13 unless it is filed at least two years after the date the first case was filed. Because it usually takes three to five years to complete a Chapter 13 repayment plan and receive a discharge, you can typically file for another Chapter 13 bankruptcy and be eligible for a discharge immediately after your first case is closed.
  • Chapter 7 to Chapter 13: If your first discharge was under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can file for a subsequent Chapter 13 and be eligible for a discharge if the case is filed at least four years after the filing date of the initial Chapter 7. Keep in mind that filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy after receiving a Chapter 7 discharge can still help you pay off priority debts or get caught up on missed mortgage or car loan payments even if you are not entitled to a discharge. Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy following a Chapter 7 discharge is commonly referred to as a Chapter 20 bankruptcy.
  • Chapter 13 to Chapter 7: Finally, if you received a discharge in a previous Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must wait six years from the date the Chapter 13 was filed before you can file for and receive a discharge in a subsequent Chapter 7 case. But there is an exception to this rule. The six-year rule does not apply if, in the previous Chapter 13, you paid back:
    • all of your unsecured debts
    • at least 70% of your unsecured debts and your plan was proposed in good

For more information on how often you can file for bankruptcy, here are some great reference links:

http://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/bankruptcy/how-often-file.html

http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/bankruptcy/bankruptcy-basics/discharge-bankruptcy-bankruptcy-basics

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