How Often You Can File Bankruptcy?

by Cindy Hill
Waiting periods may limit the number of times you can file bankruptcy.

Waiting periods may limit the number of times you can file bankruptcy.

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Personal bankruptcy filing limitations are governed by federal law. You can file for bankruptcy an unlimited number of times, but there are waiting periods before you can refile, and the ability to discharge debts through bankruptcy is limited. The length of the waiting period depends on whether your prior bankruptcy and subsequent bankruptcy were filed under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

Bankruptcy Without Discharge

In many circumstances, if you filed for bankruptcy in the past but did not receive a discharge, you can file for bankruptcy again without a waiting period. If the first bankruptcy case was dismissed due to willful failure to follow the bankruptcy procedure rules or court orders, or if you withdrew the case after a creditor petitioned the court for relief from the automatic stay of collection actions, you may refile for bankruptcy after a 180-day waiting period. If you refile a Chapter 7 bankruptcy within one year after dismissal, the automatic stay is limited to only 30 days.

Chapter 7

If you received a discharge under Chapter 7, you must wait eight years from the date of filing the first bankruptcy before you may file for a subsequent Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy every eight years, without limitation on the total number of bankruptcies you may file in your lifetime. If you received a Chapter 7 discharge, you may subsequently file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy at any time; however, unsecured debts like credit card or medical bills cannot be discharged if the Chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed within four years of filing the previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 and Chapter 7

If you received a discharge in a bankruptcy case filed under Chapter 13, and subsequently want to file for a Chapter 7 discharge, you must wait six years from the date of the filing of the original Chapter 13 petition. However, if you paid all of the unsecured claims allowed in the first bankruptcy in full or paid the creditors at least 70 percent of the money owed under the Chapter 13 plan, you can file for a Chapter 7 discharge without waiting.

Multiple Chapter 13 Filings

If you received a discharge under a prior Chapter 13 bankruptcy case and want to file another Chapter 13 case, you must wait two years. This two-year waiting period rarely creates an impediment to subsequent Chapter 13 filings, as Chapter 13 repayment plans usually exceed two years in duration. As with Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings, there is no limit to the number of Chapter 13 bankruptcies you may file in your lifetime, as long as the appropriate waiting period between filings is met.