If you've filed bankruptcy before to get a fresh start and have found yourself again under a mountain of debt, you may be wondering "can I file for bankruptcy again"?

The answer to that question is a matter of timing, the type of bankruptcy you previously filed under (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13), and the Chapter you are now filing under.

The Timing Rules

If you've filed bankruptcy (or multiple bankruptcies) in the past, you may be eligible for bankruptcy relief again. The question is how many years have taken place since your prior bankruptcy.

If your previous bankruptcy was a Chapter 7, you must wait:

  • 8 years before you can file another Chapter 7;
  • 4 years before you can file a Chapter 13 and seek a discharge.

If your previous bankruptcy was a Chapter 13, you must wait:

  • 6 years to file a Chapter 7, but you may not have to wait at all if you paid your creditors enough in your previous Chapter 13. In this case, "enough" means either 100% of your debts or 70% plus a finding by the Court that the previous Chapter 13's plan was proposed in good faith and constituted the best efforts of the Debtor.
  • 2 years to file another Chapter 13.

From What Date?

The trigger for these 2-, 4-, 6-, and 8- year time periods are measured from filing to filing date. In other words, the discharge date from your earlier bankruptcy is not relevant to this analysis.

Here's an example: You want to file a Chapter 7 case following your Chapter 13. The Chapter 13 was filed on August 1, 2011 with a five year applicable commitment period; you received your discharge on September 20, 2016, after paying back less than 70% of your debts. You could not file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy until August 1, 2017.

No Prior Discharge

What if your earlier bankruptcy case was dismissed or did not otherwise end in a discharge? Then those years of waiting would not apply in your case. If you are uncertain as to how your prior bankruptcy ended, that information can be verified during your consultation.

No Discharge Needed?

It's also possible to avoid these waiting periods by filing a Chapter 13 without seeking the benefit of a discharge. Why would you do that?

Although it is not an option for everyone, there are rare cases where filing a Chapter 13 makes sense even where you are not seeking a discharge. One big example is if you are behind on your mortgage and are facing foreclosure; a Chapter 13 can give you the opportunity to catch up on the arrearage over a three-to-five year period. Although you wouldn't discharge any debts, it could provide you with the opportunity to save your home.

"Can I file for bankruptcy again?" is a question I hear often and I'm happy to talk with you about your options. Feel free to contact me or to learn more about bankruptcy.