If You Filed Bankruptcy Before, When Exactly Can You File Again?

To file a bankruptcy case after filing one earlier, sometimes you must wait 8 years but it may be only 6 or 4 or 2 years, or even 0 years.

To Get a Discharge—a Legal Write-off—of Debts

There are various rules about qualifying to file bankruptcy. Some of those rules involve financial considerations—such as the amount of your income or expenses for the Chapter 7 “means test,” or the debt limits for Chapter 13. Today we focus on one other kind of bankruptcy qualification rules–the amount of time you have to wait to file a bankruptcy case after you’d filed another one earlier.  

Focus First on Whether There Was a Previous “Discharge”

More precisely, the timing rules refer to the length of time from the filing of a previous bankruptcy case which resulted in the discharge of debts until the filing of your new case.

“Discharge” is the legal write-off of debts provided by the bankruptcy law. It’s usually (but not always) the main reason for filing bankruptcy.

If you filed a previous personal bankruptcy—whether it was a Chapter 7 “straight” bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 “adjustment of debts”—and you believe that you finished it successfully, almost certainly you received a discharge of your debts. Near the end of your case you should have received a copy of an order from the bankruptcy court granting you a discharge. If you still have possession of your old bankruptcy documents, bring them to your present attorney. If you don’t, he or she should still be able to determine whether or not you received a discharge.

Finding this out is important because if you did not get a discharge then you do not have to wait any period of time before you can file a new bankruptcy case.

The Timing Rules

Here are the rules about how long you must wait in between bankruptcy filings to receive a discharge of debts in a new bankruptcy case. It depends on what kind of bankruptcy you filed earlier and the kind of bankruptcy you are filing now. (Note that Chapter 11 is usually for a business, or if you have a very large amount of debt; Chapter 12 is for farmers and fishermen.)

IF you want to now file a Chapter 7 case:

–and received a discharge in a previous Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 case, you must wait 8 years from the filing date of the previous case to the filing date of the new case;

–and received a discharge in a previous Chapter 13 case, you must wait 6 years from the filing date of the previous case to the filing date of the new case; BUT you don’t have to wait at all if in that Chapter 13 case you paid 100% of the allowed debts, or paid at least 70% and met some other conditions.

  IF you want to now file a Chapter 13 case:

–and received a discharge in a previous Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 or Chapter 12 case, you must wait 4 years from the filing date of the previous case to the filing date of the new case;

–and received a discharge in a previous Chapter 13 case, you must wait 2 years from the filing date of the previous case to the filing date of the new case.

IF you want to file a Chapter 11 case, the timing rules are the same as for Chapter 7 above.

Notice that the date the discharge was entered in the previous case does not matter. It’s the filing date that starts the clock running.

So You Can File Sooner than You May Think

So if you filed a Chapter 7 case on or before this time of year in 2008 (that is, at least 8 years ago), you can file another Chapter 7 case now. Under any other combination—previous Chapter 13 case to new Chapter 7, or vice versa—you don’t have to wait nearly as long. (This blog post is being written and published in 2016.)

The timing rules certainly can get complicated, so regardless how long ago your prior case was filed, see an experienced bankruptcy lawyer to find out when you can file again.


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