While my bankruptcy clients are generally thankful for the financial relief bankruptcy affords them, as you may guess, most of them hope to only file bankruptcy once in their lives. However, as the saying goes “life happens.” Despite best efforts, sometimes the financial difficulty, unpredictability, and plain bad luck catch up to a person after they file bankruptcy. In those circumstances, I have been approached many times by people who have previously filed bankruptcy and need to do so again.
When can I file bankruptcy again?
The question “When can I file bankruptcy again?” can have a complicated answer. This is because when someone asks When they can file another bankruptcy, they are usually asking (1) When they can file another bankruptcy case AND get a discharge from their debts. As far as when and how often you can file a bankruptcy, there is not a specific statutory limitation. And there may be reasons to file a bankruptcy knowing you will not be getting a discharge. For example, maybe your only debt is the mortgage on your home which you are hopelessly behind on. Then you may not care about discharging debt at all; perhaps you just want to invoke the automatic stay to prevent a foreclosure and then use a chapter 13 plan to cure the deficiency. Of course this is just one example, but there are a host of reasons one might file bankruptcy without seeking a discharge.
When can I file bankruptcy AND get a discharge?
Before we get to the answer in the chart below, be aware that I assume a few things. Firstly, I am assuming that in the prior case, the person needing to file bankruptcy received a discharge. Secondly, I am assuming that in the scenarios below the person seeking bankruptcy needs a discharge from their debt. Thirdly, with a few exceptions, the lion’s share of bankruptcies filed by individual people (as opposed to companies) are chapter 7 and chapter 13. As such, I am assuming in the scenarios below that the potential bankruptcy filer is not needing or wanting to file anything other than a chapter 7 or chapter 13. Finally, I make no effort to explore other chapters of bankruptcy in this article. When you can file bankruptcy again will depend on what type of bankruptcy you filed before, how long ago you filed it, and what type of bankruptcy you need now.
Below is a summary of when you can file another bankruptcy:
If your prior case was a chapter 7…
and you need to file another chapter 7 bankruptcy, then you cannot file another chapter 7 bankruptcy for eight years after the filing of the prior chapter 7 case. See 11 USC §727(a)(8).
and you need to file chapter 13 bankruptcy, then you cannot file another chapter 13 bankruptcy until four years after the filing of the prior chapter 7 case. See 11 USC §1328(f)(1).
If your prior case was a chapter 13 …
and you need to file chapter 7 bankruptcy, then you cannot file another chapter 7 until six years after the filing of the prior chapter 13 case. See 11 USC §727(a)(9).
and you need to file another chapter 13 bankruptcy, then you cannot file another chapter 13 bankruptcy until two years after the filing of the prior chapter 13 case. See 11 USC §1328(f)(2).
As you can see, even the simple question “When can I file bankruptcy again?” has a complicated answer. Bankruptcy is a highly technical area of law. You should seek out the guidance of a qualified and experienced Topeka bankruptcy attorney to help you choose if bankruptcy is right for you, if you are eligible to file bankruptcy again, and what chapters are available to you.
by Adam Mack, J.D.
These articles are for general informational use and do not constitute legal advice. Since laws change over time, it’s possible some articles are out of date and for that reason, we make no representation that the articles are fully accurate. For actual, up-to-date legal advice (including a free consultation), please contact us!