How long do you have to wait to file bankruptcy if you have filed in the past?

The answer is that there is no limit to how many times you may file bankruptcy, but there are a few special rules governing how often a bankruptcy case will discharge your debts when you have filed before. Here are the rules to receive a discharge in the new bankruptcy case:

  • 8 years between Chapter 7 cases.
  • 2 years between Chapter 13 cases.
  • 4 years between a prior chapter 7 and a new Chapter 13.
  • 6 years between a prior Chapter 13 and a new Chapter 7.

The time is measured from the date the previous case is filed and not for the date the prior discharge is entered. 

The 2-year rule between successive Chapter 13 cases is silly since Chapter 13 cases normally take 3 years to complete at a minimum.  Hence, the rule almost never applies.  A person can file one Chapter 13 case after another and get a discharge in each succeeding case.  There are actually a few unfortunate people who, because of chronic medical problems and a lack of health insurance coverage, file one Chapter 13 case after another to prevent wage garnishments. 

One of the most important things to understand about these rules is that even though you may not receive a discharge of your debts in a subsequent bankruptcy case, you will still get the benefit of the bankruptcy protection that stops foreclosures, wage ganishments, collection calls, etc, while the new bankruptcy case is pending. 

For example, if you filed Chapter 7 one year ago and now your home is in foreclosure because you lost your job, you can still file Chapter 13 to invoke the bankruptcy protection to stop the foreclosure sale, although you will not receive a discharge of any debt.  Lots of people are mistakenly under the belief that you cannot file another case for 8 years, but that is not the case.  A new Chapter 13 case may not wipe out the new debt, but it will allow a person up to five (5) years to structure a repayment plan to bring the mortgage payment current. 

If you filed bankruptcy before and now find yourself in a new financial problem, contact a a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney about your options.