If you have filed for bankruptcy in the past, you may be wondering how soon you can file for bankruptcy again. Read on to learn about the time limitations for receiving a bankruptcy discharge after you have previously filed for, and received a discharge in, Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Time Limits Apply to Discharges, Not to Filing
Technically, bankruptcy law does not set any minimum time that you to wait before you can file for bankruptcy again. However, there is a catch. If you file too soon after you have received a discharge of your debts in a prior case, you cannot receive another discharge. Since this generally makes the second bankruptcy filing a waste of time and money, it is important to know the time frames that apply to receiving a second discharge.
Learn more in Nolo's section on Timing your bankruptcy filing.
Filing Under the Same Bankruptcy Chapter: Chapter 7 v. Chapter 13
If you are filing under the same bankruptcy chapter, the time frames are different depending on whether you are filing for successive Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 cases.
Successive Chapter 7 Cases
If you received your first discharge under a Chapter 7, you cannot receive a second discharge in any Chapter 7 case that is filed within eight years from the date that the first case was filed.
Successive Chapter 13 Cases
If you received your first discharge under Chapter 13, you cannot receive a second discharge in any Chapter 13 case that is filed within two years from the date that the first case was filed.
This can get tricky if you file your second Chapter 13 case between two and six years from the first Chapter 13 and the court refuses to confirm your Chapter 13 plan in the second case. Normally, if your plan is not confirmed you could convert to a Chapter 7 case. But in this situation, the rules for receiving a Chapter 7 discharge after a Chapter 13 discharge would kick in (see below) and prevent you from getting a discharge in the converted case.
Filing Under Different Chapters: The Order Matters
If the second bankruptcy case you want to file is under a chapter that is different from the chapter you received your first discharge under, the order determines the time frame.
Chapter 13, Then Chapter 7
If your first discharge was granted under Chapter 13, you cannot receive a discharge under any Chapter 7 case that is filed within six years from the date that the Chapter 13 was filed. The only exceptions to the six-year waiting period are:
- if you paid all unsecured creditors in full in the Chapter 13, or
- if you paid at least 70% of the claims in the Chapter 13 and the plan was proposed in good faith and was your best effort.
Chapter 7, Then Chapter 13
If your first discharge was granted under Chapter 7, you cannot receive a discharge under any Chapter 13 case that is filed within four years from the date that the Chapter 7 was filed.
This can get tricky if you file your second case (the Chapter 13) between four and eight years after the Chapter 7 case and the court does not confirm your Chapter 13 plan. Normally, if your Chapter 13 plan is not confirmed, you could convert the case to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, in this situation, the rules for successive Chapter 7 discharges would kick in, preventing you from getting a discharge in the converted case. In this case, it might make sense to simply dismiss the Chapter 13 case.
When a Second Filing Might be Beneficial Even Without a Discharge
In some circumstances, you might still benefit from filing a Chapter 13 case immediately after getting a Chapter 7 discharge (this is commonly referred to as a Chapter 20 bankruptcy), even though you cannot get a Chapter 13 discharge. For example, perhaps you want the protection of the bankruptcy court while you pay a tax debt through a Chapter 13 plan. Whether you can get any benefit from a "Chapter 20" depends on your personal circumstances and the case law in your area. It would be wise to consult an experienced bankruptcy lawyer in your area for advice on this subject.
What If You Didn’t Receive a Discharge in the First Case?
If you didn’t receive a discharge in the first bankruptcy case, in most cases, you can file bankruptcy again without any limits on the second discharge.
If the First Case Was Dismissed
Unless the court orders otherwise, you can file again if your bankruptcy case was dismissed. A 180-day waiting period may apply if your case was dismissed for failure to obey a court order, failure to appear in the case, or you voluntarily dismissed the case after a creditor filed a motion for relief from the bankruptcy stay. There may, however, be different rules in effect with regard to the bankruptcy stay.
If Your Discharge Was Denied
If your discharge was denied in your first case, you may be able to file again, but you will probably not be entitled to a discharge of the debts from your first case. This is another special circumstance where you would be wise to seek the advice of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer.