I’ve Filed for Bankruptcy in the Past; Can I File Again?
Yes. A person can file for bankruptcy more than once, but you may have to wait a particular amount of time since the last time you filed for bankruptcy in order to obtain a discharge of your current or newly incurred debts. The policy underlying the United States Bankruptcy Code is to permit any person to obtain a fresh start from their debts. Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances, such as death, divorce, or unemployment can necessitate filing a new bankruptcy. The amount of time you have to wait between filings depends on what type of bankruptcy you previously obtained, and what type of bankruptcy you want to file for now.
If you previously filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy (also known as a “liquidation” or “total discharge”), you must wait eight years before filing again for a new Chapter 7 discharge. Note that the eight years begins with the date of the initial filing, not the date of the initial discharge. Most consumers file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In Chapter 7 liquidation, the bankruptcy court judge enters an order discharging most debts, including credit cards, loans, and other types of debt, but not child support, spousal support, and some taxes.
If you previously filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy (also known as a “wage earner repayment plan”), you may file a new Chapter 13 bankruptcy after as little as two years after the original petition was filed. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court judge creates a repayment plan on behalf of the debtor for a period, usually three to five years.
If you previously filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you are eligible to file for a new Chapter 13 bankruptcy after four years from the previous filing.
If you previously filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must wait six years before filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This generally applies only where more than seventy percent of the plan is completed. If less than seventy percent is completed, it may be better to consider a petition converting the existing Chapter 13 repayment plan into a Chapter 7 discharge.
In order to convert a Chapter 13 repayment plan into a Chapter 7 liquidation, you must meet the qualifications for a liquidation, prepare the proper forms, and file them with the bankruptcy court. In a limited number of cases, a Chapter 7 can be “reconverted” back into a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Some courts do not permit debtors to convert or reconvert their bankruptcies. A bankruptcy attorney can advise you on if a conversion or reconversion is permitted in your particular bankruptcy court.
It is significant to recognize, as well, that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, both bankruptcies may appear on a consumer’s credit report after bankruptcy, if the cases are filed within ten years of one another. Also, new accounts and affirmed accounts may be reported with a more recent delinquency date.
In summary, there is not a fixed limit on the number of times a consumer can file for bankruptcy. It may be necessary to wait a particular amount of time between filings. That time may vary, based upon the type of bankruptcy you previously filed, and the type of bankruptcy you wish to file now. Filing a new bankruptcy can have consequences, such as the ability to convert, or negative information appearing on your credit report.