How Often Can You File for Bankruptcy?

by Michelle Dwyer; Updated September 26, 2017

How often you can file bankruptcy depends on the type of bankruptcy. It also depends on a few factors such as whether you had debts discharged previously, and how long ago. There is no limit to the number of bankruptcies you can file as long as you comply with time requirements.

Time Frames for Same Filing

If you're filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, thereby liquidating almost all debts, then you must wait eight years to file another Chapter 7 to liquidate debts again. If you're filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, thereby reorganizing most debts and following a payment plan, then you must wait two years to file another Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Time Frames for Different Filing

If you're filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and previously filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, then you must wait four years to file again. If you're filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and previously filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must wait six years to file again.

Warnings

    • When filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the court must approve your payment plan. If it denies your plan, and this is your second filing for Chapter 13, then you will likely have to file a Chapter 7. The timeline of waiting six years will apply.  The six-year waiting period can only be waived if you've paid up all debts, or at least 70 percent of them under a proven good-faith effort to pay in full.
    • When filing a Chapter 13 after filing a Chapter 7 and you are in the window of four to eight years, and the court denies your payment plan, you will likely have to wait the additional time to file another Chapter 7.

Tips

  • To learn more about the country's bankruptcy laws, click here.

Dismissal vs. Discharge

The jargon involving bankruptcy can get confusing. Your bankruptcy case either gets dismissed, denied or approved. When a court dismisses a bankruptcy case, this means the bankruptcy case gets thrown out and a bankruptcy never happens. You can file for bankruptcy anytime after a dismissal, unless the case was dismissed with prejudice and the court attaches a waiting period before you can to file again. An example of when a court would dismiss a bankruptcy case is if you commit bankruptcy fraud.

When a court approves or grants your bankruptcy, this means your case receives positive resolution. In a Chapter 7, your debts--the ones allowed to be erased--will be officially discharged. In a Chapter 13, your debts will be reorganized and/or reduced.

When a court denies your bankruptcy, you receive a negative resolution. You may or may not be able to file again and seek discharge of your debts. It is best to consult an attorney in this matter, or any matter pertaining to bankruptcy laws.

Warnings

  • Bankruptcy fraud is a serious offense punishable by five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. To learn more about bankruptcy fraud, click here.

Tips

  • Good to know: There is no such thing as a discharged bankruptcy. In an approved bankruptcy such as Chapter 7, your debts get discharged --not your actual bankruptcy. In other words, your debts get a bankruptcy discharge under an approved, or granted, Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition.

Chapter 20

There is one way you can immediately file a Chapter 13 after a Chapter 7. You won't get any additional debts discharged or reorganized, but you can get protection for other debts that weren't discharged in the Chapter 7. This is called filing a Chapter 20. For example, the court grants you a Chapter 7 and most of your debts are erased except a tax obligation. You can file a Chapter 13 for this tax relief and it becomes a Chapter 20. Not everyone benefits from a Chapter 20, so it's best to consult an attorney before pursuing this option.

Warnings

    • Not all debts can be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. For list of debts that can and cannot be discharged, click here.

Stop the Cycle

Bankruptcy was never intended to be a way of life. Bankruptcy has often been referred to as a fresh start with no more looking back on bad debt. Most states require you to attend a financial management course prior to filing bankruptcy to ensure you can break the cycle. Consumer Affairs offers insights on how to start over after bankruptcy, while you can learn how to better budget your income on CNN Money.

About the Author

Michelle Dwyer is a U.S. Army veteran writing fiction and nonfiction since 2003. She specializes in business, careers, leadership, military affairs and organizational change and behavior. Dwyer received an MBA from Tarleton State University/Texas A&M Central Texas and an MFA in creative writing from National University in La Jolla, Calif.