How Many Times Can You File Bankruptcy (And How Long Do You Have To Wait)?

how many times can you file bankruptcy

So, you’ve filed for bankruptcy before and thought that would be a good fresh start. Unfortunately, things don’t always go your way despite giving your best efforts. Now that you’re facing another financial hardship, you might be wondering, how often can you file for bankruptcy?

The short answer is as many times as you need. There’s no limit to the number of bankruptcy filings you can do, but there are waiting periods before you can receive another debt discharge. Time limits are necessary to prevent the abuse of the Bankruptcy Code. However, if your debt was not discharged in a previous filing, you can file for another bankruptcy case anytime.

When Can You File Bankruptcy Again?

The time limits depend on the type of bankruptcy you previously filed, what bankruptcy type you want to file now, and whether your previous debts were discharged. Let’s take a quick review of the most common types of bankruptcies you can file and how many times you can file for bankruptcy.

Filing Under Chapter 7

Chapter 7 is the most common bankruptcy filing individuals make. Some businesses with little to no assets may also file for this type of bankruptcy. With Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your unsecured debts, such as credit card debt and medical bills, are discharged. If you have assets with value beyond the exemptions, they will be liquidated to pay off your debt. The exemptions are determined by your state.

When can you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy if your first filing is Chapter 7?

You can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after Chapter 7 eight years from the date of your first filing. It’s the longest waiting period among the other types because Chapter 7 is the quickest way to get debt relief without asking you to enter into a repayment plan.

When can you file for Chapter 13 after Chapter 7?

You can file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy after Chapter 7 four years later. It will allow you to pay off new taxes, arrears on domestic support, missed mortgage, and missed loan payments, among others. When you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy soon after you receive Chapter 7 debt discharge, it’s now called Chapter 20 bankruptcy.


Filing Under Chapter 11

Businesses that face financial difficulties but want to reorganize and recover often file for Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Under this type, you enter into a debt repayment plan that the court supervises. You also create a plan to remain profitable and cut costs, so you can continue your business while paying your debt.

How often can you file chapter 11?

The bankruptcy court allows you to file Chapter 11 as often as you need. There’s no waiting period to be eligible for another discharge. You can file for another Chapter 11 bankruptcy anytime if your first filing was Chapter 11. If you previously filed Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, there’s also no waiting period to be eligible for Chapter 11.


Filing Under Chapter 13

Individuals who want to keep their properties while getting back on track can file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Similar to Chapter 11, you enter into a debt repayment plan, which allows you to pay back your debt in installments within three to five years. Businesses that still earn consistently may also file for this type.

How soon can you file Chapter 13 after Chapter 13?

You can file for another Chapter 13 bankruptcy after two years since you first filed for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case and your debt was discharged. This rarely happens, though. Remember, repayment plans for Chapter 13 bankruptcy are a minimum of three years. So, you must have an unexpected financial hardship to receive a debt discharge before the three years is over.

When can you file under Chapter 7 after Chapter 13?

If your previous bankruptcy case is under Chapter 13 and you want to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you have to wait for six years to elapse. However, if you’ve already paid all your unsecured debt or at least 70% of your unsecured debts in the repayment plan, the waiting period doesn’t apply to you.

Here’s a table to give you a clearer view of the waiting periods:

FIRST FILINGSECOND FILINGWAITING TIME
Chapter 7Chapter 78 years
Chapter 7Chapter 134 years
Chapter 7Chapter 11None
Chapter 11Chapter 11None
Chapter 11Chapter 78 years
Chapter 11Chapter 134 years
Chapter 13Chapter 132 years
Chapter 13Chapter 76 years
Chapter 13Chapter 11None

No Waiting Periods If There’s No Bankruptcy Discharge in the Previous Filing

In some cases, your debts may not be discharged in a bankruptcy proceeding. If that’s the case, these waiting periods between the filing dates we discussed above don’t apply to you. You can file anytime for another bankruptcy case.

Some debts that are not discharged include:

  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Debts incurred due to willful and malicious injuries to another person or property
  • Fines and penalties from the government
  • Student loans
  • Debts incurred due to intoxicated driving
  • Housing fees

Should You File for Another Bankruptcy?

As much as possible, it’s best to avoid filing bankruptcy. While it’s generally a quick escape from most of your debts, particularly from the unsecured creditors, bankruptcy leads to many consequences.

For one, bankruptcy ruins your credit score. It will appear on your credit report for 10 years, which will affect your borrowing abilities. You may still be able to secure new loans, but you’re more likely to pay higher interest rates than the standards.

Following the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA), you’ll also have to attend mandatory credit counseling and financial management courses. You might also lose your properties and you’ll be required to make ongoing payments to your creditors.

Can a Bankruptcy Attorney Speed Up a Second Bankruptcy Filing?

Unfortunately, a bankruptcy attorney can’t help you file another bankruptcy sooner than the time limits. However, they can guide you in identifying a different type of bankruptcy than the first one you filed and confirm when is the earliest time you can file a new bankruptcy case. 

When Are Multiple Bankruptcy Filings Abusive?

Bankruptcy is considered abusive if you file under Chapter 7 despite not meeting the qualification standards to get a debt discharge. An abusive filing can also refer to when a person files for it as a tactic to avoid creditors and delay foreclosure or lawsuit. Note that the court doesn’t tolerate this practice, so there won’t be an automatic stay order for repeat filers. The discharge of their debts may also be denied.

How Do Multiple Bankruptcies Impact Your Credit Report?

Bankruptcy affects your credit score negatively, slashing off up to 200 points off your FICO score. 

Multiple bankruptcies will appear on your credit report for up to 10 years, whether your debt has been discharged or your case has been completed. 

Bankruptcy records on your credit report will make it difficult for you to secure new loans. If you manage to get approved, you’ll probably pay high-interest rates. 

Your credit score will also be low for the next year or so after your bankruptcy filing.

Conclusion

Nobody wants to get deep into debt to a point of bankruptcy, much more to need a second bankruptcy filing. Unfortunately, it does happen despite your best efforts. How many times can you file for bankruptcy? You can file as many bankruptcy cases as you need, although you typically need to wait two to eight years since your first filing.

Meanwhile, you can take steps to get back on your track and improve your financial life. Keep in mind our tips above to manage your money better, particularly about budgeting and spending. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a bankruptcy lawyer so that you’re armed with the right knowledge about your finances and how to get out of debt. You may find an experienced bankruptcy attorney that provides free bankruptcy evaluation. It may take time to build your credit and bank account, but with consistent efforts and commitment, you can recover and improve your life.

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