After you file for bankruptcy and receive a discharge, your goal is to get your financial situation back on track. However, life often takes unexpected turns, and sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. If you're thinking about filing for bankruptcy and you've already done so in the past, you may be wondering whether you are eligible for another bankruptcy discharge and when you can file for bankruptcy again.
The answer to this largely depends on what type of bankruptcy you filed for in the past, what type you want to file for now, how much time has passed since your last bankruptcy and whether your debts were discharged in your prior bankruptcy.
It's important to understand that there's a difference between your eligibility to file for bankruptcy and your eligibility to have your debts discharged in bankruptcy. There are very few restrictions against repeat filings, and generally, you can file for bankruptcy as many times you want. However, there are often time limits on how often your debts can be discharged. This may sound like lawyer talk, but it is important for quite a few people.
Eligibility to File for Bankruptcy
Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy have their own set of eligibility requirements in order to file for bankruptcy. Just as in your first case, an experienced bankruptcy attorney will be able to help you determine which chapter of bankruptcy you're eligible to file for.
Eligibility to Have Your Debts Discharged
If you're eligible to file for bankruptcy, it's important to determine whether you're eligible to have your debts discharged. With both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your debts can only be discharged after a certain amount of time has passed since your last bankruptcy.
The restrictions on when you are eligible for another discharge depends on whether you previously received a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 discharge and which type of bankruptcy you want to file for now:
- Chapter 7 to Chapter 7: If you've already received a discharge in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and are looking to file for Chapter 7 again, you must wait eight years from the date you filed your previous Chapter 7 case. In other words, you become eligible to file a second Chapter t AND for another Chapter 7 discharge eight years and one day after the date of the previous Chapter 7 filing.
- Chapter 13 to Chapter 13: If your debts were discharged in a previous Chapter 13 case and you're looking to file Chapter 13 AND receive another Chapter 13 discharge, you'll need to wait two years after the first case was filed.
- Chapter 7 to Chapter 13: If your first discharge was under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can file for Chapter 13 and be eligible for a discharge four years after the filing date for your Chapter 7 case. Also, keep in mind that filing for Chapter 13 after you've already received a Chapter 7 discharge can help you pay off priority debts or get caught up on missed mortgage or car loan payments even if you're not entitled to a discharge.
- Chapter 13 to Chapter 7: If you received a discharge in a previous Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you need to wait six years from the date you filed for bankruptcy before you can file for AND receive a discharge in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This six-year rule doesn't apply if, in your previous Chapter 13 case, you paid back: All of your allowed unsecured claims or At least 70% of your unsecured debts and your plan was proposed in good faith and your best effort
What If You Didn't Receive a Discharge in Your First Bankruptcy?
If you didn't receive a discharge in your first bankruptcy case, you can file bankruptcy again without having to wait. If your first case was dismissed, you are able to file for bankruptcy again unless the court ordered otherwise. You may have a 180-day waiting period if your case was dismissed for failure to obey a court order, failure to appear in the case or if you voluntarily dismissed the case after a creditor filed a motion for relief from the bankruptcy stay. If your discharge was denied in your first case, you will be able to file again, but you most likely won't be entitled to a discharge of the debts from your first bankruptcy case.
If you are in a position where you feel that bankruptcy may be the right option, the best thing you can do is to meet with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. An experienced bankruptcy attorney will be able to review your case with you and determine if filing for bankruptcy again is the right course of action for you.