How Often Can You File for Bankruptcy?

There is no limit to how many times you can file bankruptcy, but your debts can only be discharged within certain time limits.

Unless a bankruptcy court orders otherwise, there are no restrictions on the number of bankruptcy cases you can file. But if your debts were discharged in a previous bankruptcy, you must wait a certain amount of time before you will be entitled to a discharge again. Whether you can file another bankruptcy and receive a discharge depends on:

  • the type of bankruptcy you filed previously and wish to file now
  • whether your previous bankruptcy was discharged, dismissed, or dismissed with prejudice, and
  • when you filed the previous case.

There Are Limits to How Many Times You Can Receive a Discharge

Time restrictions on when you are eligible for another discharge depend on whether you previously received a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 discharge and the type of bankruptcy you want to file now.

Chapter 7 to Chapter 7. If you have already received a discharge in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must wait eight years from the date you filed the previous case before you can file another Chapter 7 and receive a discharge. 

Chapter 13 to Chapter 13. If your debts were discharged in a prior Chapter 13 case, you cannot receive a discharge in a subsequent Chapter 13 unless it is filed at least two years after the date the first case was filed. Because it usually takes three to five years to complete a Chapter 13 repayment plan and receive a discharge, you can typically file for another Chapter 13 bankruptcy and be eligible for a discharge immediately after your first case is closed. 

Chapter 7 to Chapter 13. If your first discharge was under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can file for a subsequent Chapter 13 and be eligible for a discharge if the case is filed at least four years after the filing date of the initial Chapter 7. But keep in mind that filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy after receiving a Chapter 7 discharge can still help you pay off priority debts or get caught up on missed mortgage or car loan payments even if you are not entitled to a discharge. Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy following a Chapter 7 discharge is commonly referred to as a Chapter 20 bankruptcy. 

Chapter 13 to Chapter 7. Finally, if you received a discharge in a previous Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must wait six years from the date the Chapter 13 was filed before you can file for and receive a discharge in a subsequent Chapter 7 case. But there is an exception to this rule. The six-year rule does not apply if, in the previous Chapter 13, you paid back:

  • all of your unsecured debts, or
  • at least 70% of your unsecured debts and your plan was proposed in good faith and your best effort. 

Restrictions on Refiling If Your Previous Bankruptcy Was Dismissed With Prejudice

In addition to the discharge limits discussed above, the bankruptcy court can prohibit you from filing another bankruptcy case for a specific amount of time. This can happen if the court dismisses your previous bankruptcy with prejudice. A bankruptcy case will typically be dismissed with prejudice if you fail to obey court orders, file multiple cases to delay creditors, or otherwise try to abuse the bankruptcy system.

In most cases, a 180-day bar to refiling is imposed if:

  • you willfully failed to obey court orders, or
  • you voluntarily dismissed your previous bankruptcy after a creditor filed a motion for relief from the automatic stay.

If you commit bankruptcy fraud by hiding assets, lying on your bankruptcy papers, or otherwise filing your case in bad faith, the bankruptcy court can prohibit you from filing another bankruptcy for a longer period of time or forever preclude you from discharging any debts that could have been discharged in the dismissed case.

Additional Limitations on the Automatic Stay

The automatic stay protects you against collection efforts by creditors during bankruptcy. However, if your first bankruptcy was dismissed and you subsequently filed another case within one year of the dismissal, the automatic stay in your new case is limited to 30 days. If you had two or more dismissals within one year of your new bankruptcy, there is no automatic stay.

As a result, if you file multiple bankruptcies in one year, you may have to file a motion to extend or impose the automatic stay in your current case.

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