Under federal law, you may file for bankruptcy multiple times. However, there are some strict rules as to how often you can do so.
Technically, bankruptcy laws allow you to file as frequently as you wish, but you will only receive a discharge if enough time has lapsed since your previous discharge. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the limitations so you do not waste money and time filing for bankruptcy when you are ineligible for a discharge.
The timeframes for receiving bankruptcy discharges differ depending on the type of bankruptcy you file:
Chapter 7: If your first bankruptcy discharge came under a Chapter 7 filing, you cannot receive a second Chapter 7 discharge until eight years have passed from the filing of the first case.
Chapter 13: If your first discharge came under Chapter 13, you cannot receive another discharge in a Chapter 13 case until two years have passed since the first filing date.
Successive bankruptcy filings become slightly more complicated if you wish to file under a different chapter than your initial filing. The important factors you need to be aware of depend on the order in which the filings occur.
Chapter 13 followed by Chapter 7
If you received your first discharge under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you cannot receive a Chapter 7 discharge until six years have passed since the initial Chapter 13 filing. There are only two exceptions to this rule:
You have already paid back all your unsecured Chapter 13 creditors in full
You paid at least 70 percent of the claims outlined in your Chapter 13 plan and you made your best effort to pay them off in their entirety
Chapter 7 followed by Chapter 13
If you file the Chapter 13 case between four and eight years after the Chapter 7 case and the court does not decide to confirm your Chapter 13 plan, you cannot fall back on another Chapter 7 filing, given the successive filing rules.
What if there was no discharge in the first case?
If you did not receive a discharge the first time you filed for bankruptcy, you can usually file for bankruptcy again without being subject to any limitations. There may be a waiting period that applies if your case was dismissed in the court, so be sure to read the fine print of the court’s final decision. Also, if your discharge was denied the first time around, you will likely not be entitled to a discharge of the debts you presented in your first case.