How Many Times Can You File For Bankruptcy?
Many people deal with multiple financial hardships in their life, whether it’s a fiscal emergency or some type of debt. When a person is facing troubled times, they may decide that filing for bankruptcy is their best option. But is there a limit to how many times someone can file?
The answer is no. There are no limits as to how many times a person can file for bankruptcy. There are limits, however, on when or how frequently you can file and obtain a discharge.
How Many Times Can You File for Bankruptcy: Wait Times Between Bankruptcy Filings
If a person has had debts discharged in bankruptcy, there may be a waiting period until they can obtain a discharge in another bankruptcy case. The wait time is designed to prevent abuse of the bankruptcy system and to dissuade people from entering into high credit card debt. Here are the current guidelines for filing multiple bankruptcy cases under the US Bankruptcy Code:
- Filing Multiple Chapter 7 bankruptcies: A debtor can obtain a discharge in Chapter 7 cases filed every eight years. If the debtor’s previous Chapter 7 case was dismissed or closed without discharge, they can obtain a discharge in another Chapter 7 case without having to wait eight years.
- Filing Multiple Chapter 13 bankruptcies:
- If a debtor received a discharge in a Chapter 13 case, they will not be eligible for another Chapter 13 discharge for at least two years.
- If the debtor had a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case dismissed within the past 12 months, the debtor can file another Chapter 13 case, but the automatic stay will only be in place for 30 days. The debtor will need to file a Motion to Extend the Stay to obtain protection from creditors for the duration of the case.
- If the debtor had two or more Chapter 7 and/or Chapter 13 cases dismissed within the past 12 months, the debtor can file another Chapter 13 case, but the automatic stay will not go into effect upon filing the case. The debtor will need to file a Motion to Impose the Stay to obtain protection from creditors for the duration of the case.
- Filing Chapter 7, then Chapter 13 bankruptcies: If a debtor obtained a discharge in a Chapter 7 case, they will not be eligible for a discharge in a Chapter 13 case for four years (from filing date to filing date).
- Filing Chapter 13, then Chapter 7 bankruptcy: If a debtor received a discharge in a Chapter 13 case (that was filed less than six years ago), then they are not eligible for a discharge in a Chapter 7 case. A debtor may also not be eligible if they paid less than 70% to their unsecured creditors under the Chapter 13 plan.
Some debtors will choose to file a different type of bankruptcy the second time around, based on the amount they owe, the amount of time the bankruptcy stays on their record or their repayment options. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can explain the different options available and the best debt relief plan for you and your family.
Can You File Bankruptcy Twice?: If a Previous Bankruptcy Case Isn’t Discharged?
Sometimes, the bankruptcy court may dismiss or close a bankruptcy case without a discharge. This can happen if the debtor failed to appear in court, failed to provide documents, hid assets, ignored a court order, failed to take the second financial management course, or if the debtor voluntarily dismissed their own case. In these situations, the debtor can immediately file another bankruptcy case unless the court dismissed the prior case with prejudice. Multiple bankruptcy filings with no intention of completing the cases may result in the court dismissing the case with prejudice — in which case, the debtor will have to wait 180 days before they can file for bankruptcy again. The 180-day waiting period may apply only to filing another Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, or it may apply to filing both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases. Filing multiple Chapter 13 cases that are subsequently dismissed may affect the protection you are afforded against your creditors.
Can You File Bankruptcy Twice?: Pros and Cons of Double Filings
If a debtor receives a Chapter 7 discharge and then files for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, they may have more time to repay debts that cannot be discharged, such as child support or spousal support, or to pay debts they incurred after filing the Chapter 7. A debtor may file Chapter 13 twice in a row if they fell behind on their post-petition payment obligations or incurred debt after filing the first Chapter 13 case. The second Chapter 13 would add five more years to their repayment plan.
If a debtor files for a second bankruptcy too soon, they may not be eligible for a discharge, or they may not get the protection from creditors that bankruptcy affords. Or, a judge may find that the debtor has filed in bad faith and throw their bankruptcy case out with prejudice, preventing them from filing another case. Further, having multiple bankruptcies on a credit report history can make it difficult to apply for a loan or find lenders with low-interest rates.
Not sure whether you can file? Should you file?
If you are unsure about whether you can file or whether bankruptcy may be a good option for you, feel free to use the calculator below to estimate whether you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Have Additional Questions? Contact the Bankruptcy Attorneys at Burrow & Associates
If you are considering filing another bankruptcy case, it’s a good idea to reach out to a bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options. While there are no limits on how many times you can file for bankruptcy, the process can be nuanced and complicated. At Burrow & Associates, we offer free consultations and have six offices conveniently located in Duluth, Athens, Gainesville, Conyers, Kennesaw, and Morrow. Our law firm will file your bankruptcy for no money down. You can reach out to Burrow & Associates at (678) 323-2394 or our contact page.