Bankruptcy

Filing for Bankruptcy More Than Once

Updated by Cara O'Neill, Attorney
There are no limits as to how often you can file for bankruptcy. However, time limits do apply to how often you may receive a discharge of your debts in bankruptcy.

If you’re struggling with debt and have previously filed a bankruptcy case, you might be wondering how long you have to wait before filing for bankruptcy again. The good news is that you can file for bankruptcy as often as you like. The bad news is that there are time limits on how often you can file if you want to discharge (wipe out) your debts.

Read on to learn about the timing of repeat bankruptcy filings, whether you can refile after the court dismisses your case, and why you might want to file for bankruptcy even if you can’t discharge your debts.

What Is a Bankruptcy Discharge?

The discharge is the order that wipes out all of your qualifying debts (debts that can’t be wiped out in bankruptcy are called nondischargeable debts). The court grants you a discharge at the end of a successful bankruptcy case.

Because receiving a debt discharge is the goal for most bankruptcy filers, you’ll want to understand the time limits on repeat discharges. (Find out the average cost of filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.)

How Often Can I Get a Bankruptcy Discharge?

Below are the time limits for receiving a second discharge. The limits vary depending on what type of bankruptcy you plan to file (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13) and the bankruptcy chapter you filed (and received a discharge in) previously.

Chapter 7 first, then Chapter 7—eight years. If you received a discharge in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you cannot get another Chapter 7 discharge unless the second case was filed more than eight years from the date you filed the first Chapter 7 case.

Chapter 13 first, then Chapter 13—two years. If you received a discharge in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you cannot get another Chapter 13 discharge unless the second case was filed more than two years from the date you filed the first Chapter 13 case.

Chapter 13 first, then Chapter 7—six years. If you received a discharge in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you cannot get a discharge in a Chapter 7 case unless you file the second case more than six years from the filing date of Chapter 13. There is an exception. You can file right away if:

    • you paid 100% of the debt owed to your unsecured creditors in Chapter 13, or
    • you paid at least 70% of the claims in the Chapter 13 case, and you proposed the plan in good faith and used your best effort to repay creditors.

Chapter 7 first, then Chapter 13—four years. If you received a discharge in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you cannot get a discharge in a subsequent Chapter 13 case unless you file the Chapter 13 case more than four years from the filing date of Chapter 7.

What If the Court Dismissed the Previous Bankruptcy Case?

If the bankruptcy court dismissed your case, you can refile unless the court says otherwise. The court will likely prohibit you from refiling if it dismissed your case due to fraud.

If you’re allowed to refile, you might have to wait 180 days, depending on the reason for dismissal. Keep in mind that if you refile within a few years, the protection of the automatic stay may be limited. If the court denied your discharge, you likely can file again, but you probably won’t be able to discharge any of the debts that were part of the first filing.

If you are considering bankruptcy after either of these scenarios (dismissal or discharge), it’s best to talk to a bankruptcy attorney.

Why File for Bankruptcy If You Can’t Get a Discharge?

In some situations, it makes sense to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy even if you can’t get a discharge at the end. In Chapter 13, you make payments to the bankruptcy trustee under a payment plan that has been approved by the court. The bankruptcy trustee distributes those payments among your creditors.

If you are not eligible for a discharge, once the Chapter 13 case is over, you’ll remain liable for the remaining debt. But while you’re in bankruptcy, you’ll get some breathing room. It can provide an opportunity to catch up on a back mortgage or car payment while staving off foreclosure or repossession. Or it can help you repay a tax debt over time, without risk of wage garnishment or tax refund offset.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How will multiple bankruptcy filings affect my credit score?
  • Are there other downsides of filing for bankruptcy more than once?
  • Is there a lifetime limit on filing for bankruptcy?

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