How Often Can You File Bankruptcy?
Maybe you just wrapped up a bankruptcy case and your bankruptcy discharge isn’t what you hoped it would be or you didn’t receive a discharge at all. You may be wondering: how often can you file bankruptcy? Can you even file for bankruptcy more than once? Multiple bankruptcy filings are possible – and even useful for full debt relief – depending on the filing dates.
Bankruptcy lawyer Eric Wilson has more than 25 years of experience in handling all things bankruptcy law and debt relief. He is passionate about providing everyone in Tuscaloosa, AL with a fresh start. Call 205-349-1280 today for a free bankruptcy evaluation.
How Often Can You File the Same Chapter of Bankruptcy?
How often can you file bankruptcy? The answer to this question generally depends on which type of bankruptcy you’re filing the first time and the second time. If you’re planning on filing for the same chapter of bankruptcy as you did in your previous bankruptcy case, you must obey the time limits below.
- Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: You have to wait at least 8 years from your last Chapter 7 filing date to file for Chapter 7 again.
- Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: You have to wait at least 2 years from your last Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing date to file for Chapter 13 again.
When Can I File for a Different Chapter of Bankruptcy?
If you’re looking to file a second bankruptcy under a different chapter than you previously filed, then the waiting periods are slightly different.
If you filed for Chapter 13 the first time but you want to file for Chapter 7 the second time, there is a six-year waiting period. In other words, you have to wait at least six years from your Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing date to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The good news is that you may not have to wait the full six years to file again if you paid back at least 70% of your unsecured debts or you completely paid off those debts in your first filing. Additionally, if your Chapter 13 payment plan was proposed and completed in good faith, you may be able to start a second filing sooner than six years.
But if your first bankruptcy case was Chapter 7 and you’re now looking to file for Chapter 13, you have to wait at least four years from your Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing date in order to do so.
What is Chapter 20 Bankruptcy?
There are only six chapters of bankruptcy included in the bankruptcy code: Chapter 7, Chapter 9, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, and Chapter 15. There’s no official Chapter 20 bankruptcy filing, but it is a thing.
Basically, Chapter 20 bankruptcy is filing for Chapter 13 immediately after filing for Chapter 7. It’s important to note that filing bankruptcy back-to-back like this often won’t provide a second discharge, especially if this double filing happens within four years. Most debtors undergo Chapter 20 in order to pay off the majority of their unsecured debt via Chapter 7, and then to buy some time with Chapter 13. In other words, filing Chapter 13 immediately afterward won’t provide another bankruptcy discharge, but it will allow the debtor more time to pay off their remaining debts through a repayment plan. Additionally, the automatic stay that comes with every bankruptcy filing prevents creditor harassment, wage garnishment, foreclosures, repossessions, and so much more. There are a lot more benefits to filing bankruptcy aside from the discharge.
Your local bankruptcy court may not allow you to undergo this complex bankruptcy process. Plus, it’s difficult to qualify for this unofficial bankruptcy chapter. Basically, you would have to have an annual income that’s low enough to fail the Chapter 7 means test but high enough to afford a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. If you think multiple filings may be necessary to get a fresh start, talk with a qualified bankruptcy attorney like Eric Wilson first.
Can I File for Bankruptcy Again if I Didn’t Receive a Discharge the First Time?
If you didn’t receive a bankruptcy discharge after your previous case, you can generally file again and receive a debt discharge. You may be able to do this if the bankruptcy court voluntarily dismissed your first case or the court denied your debt discharge. Sometimes, debtors can file again within 180 days if they have experienced either of those situations. Be sure to discuss this with Tuscaloosa bankruptcy lawyer, Eric Wilson, to make sure.
When Multiple Bankruptcies Become Abusive
Sometimes, repeat filers attempt to abuse the system in order to regain control of their financial situation. If you filed for bankruptcy protection just to avoid paying back your creditors or just to receive automatic stay benefits but you have no intention of following through with your case, you may be abusing the system. Abusive bankruptcy filings are the reason why debtors can’t receive automatic stay benefits after a certain point.
If I File for Bankruptcy Multiple Times, Can I Lose the Automatic Stay?
In short, no. If you already have a double filing in the span of 1 year and you want to file for a third time, a court order will completely prevent you from receiving automatic stay benefits. If you’ve only filed for bankruptcy once in the last year and you want to file again, your automatic stay will only last 30 days. The only exception is if you can prove to the bankruptcy court that you’re filing again in good faith and that you will make your best effort to pay off most debt.
It is possible to ask the bankruptcy court to either extend the automatic stay past 30 days or to request an automatic stay for your 3rd filing in the span of 1 year. Your request may be denied, but it’s still worth a shot. For the best shot at receiving automatic stay benefits for multiple bankruptcy cases, follow the steps below.
- Write up a letter to the court explaining why your current bankruptcy filing is in good faith. Basically, explain that you’re truly not trying to manipulate the system.
- Schedule your hearing date 30 days after you file for your second bankruptcy case (or third bankruptcy case)
- Serve your creditors and your bankruptcy trustee with your request in a timely manner.
When You Can’t File for Bankruptcy Again
Some debtors just can’t file for any bankruptcy chapter again no matter how hard they try. For example, if you refuse to complete credit counseling or debt counseling, you can’t file for any type of bankruptcy again. If an investigation reveals that you’re actively trying to defraud your creditors, you can’t file for any type of bankruptcy again. If the bankruptcy court denies your Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition, you have to wait at least 180 days to file again.
Call Eric Wilson Law Today
Eric Wilson Law LLC is proud to offer debt relief options for everyone in Tuscaloosa, AL, no matter what your financial situation is. Our law firm has extensive experience in helping first-time bankruptcy filers, repeat filers, and those not interested in receiving debt relief through bankruptcy at all. Bankruptcy attorney Eric Wilson knows the ins and outs of bankruptcy law, and he can help you determine if another filing is right for you. To establish an attorney-client relationship with us, call 205-349-1280 today.