Congress does not want individuals to use bankruptcy as an excuse to incur debt irresponsibly, knowing that they can wipe out their debts and start fresh with repeated bankruptcy filings. For that reason, once you have been granted a bankruptcy discharge, you cannot immediately file another bankruptcy and receive another discharge. How long you must wait before receiving a second bankruptcy discharge depends upon the type of discharge you received in your first case.
Your First Bankruptcy Ended with a Chapter 7 Discharge
If you received a chapter 7 (debt liquidation) discharge, you must wait 8 years before you can receive another chapter 7 discharge. You can, however, receive a chapter 13 discharge after waiting 4 years. The waiting period is measured from the day you filed the previous chapter 7 petition to the date you file the new petition. If you file too soon, you will not be granted a discharge, so it is important to calculate the waiting period correctly.
Your first Bankruptcy Ended with a Chapter 13 Discharge
If you completed a debt repayment plan and were granted a chapter 13 discharge, you must wait 2 years before you can receive another chapter 13 discharge and, as a general rule, you must wait 6 years before you can receive a chapter 7 discharge. The waiting period is measured from the day you filed your previous chapter 13 petition to the date you file your new petition.
An exception to the 6 year waiting period for filing a chapter 7 petition applies if you paid all of your unsecured creditors in full before you received your chapter 13 discharge, or if you paid 70 percent of your debt in the chapter 13 plan and the court concludes that you made your best effort to pay your creditors. If you are thinking about filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy after receiving a chapter 13 discharge, you should consult a bankruptcy attorney to make certain that you are filing on a date that will entitle you to a new discharge.
Possible Exceptions if Your Second Bankruptcy is a Chapter 13
Sometimes debtors who file a chapter 13 petition experience an interruption of income and cannot complete their chapter 13 plans. In other cases, the bankruptcy court decides not to confirm a debtor’s chapter 13 plan. In either of those situations, the chapter 13 bankruptcy is sometimes converted to a chapter 7 bankruptcy. If the chapter 13 is your second bankruptcy filing, however, you cannot receive a chapter 7 discharge unless you satisfied the waiting period noted above for filing a chapter 7 as a second petition. If you cannot complete your chapter 13 plan and are not entitled to a chapter 7 discharge, your attorney might advise you to dismiss the chapter 13 petition. You should discuss your individual case with your bankruptcy attorney before deciding how to proceed.
Your First Bankruptcy Petition did not Result in a Discharge
If you filed a bankruptcy petition under chapter 7 or 13 that was dismissed before you were granted a discharge, you can usually file a new petition at any time. There are certain exceptions to this rule that depend upon the reason for the dismissal. You should consult a bankruptcy attorney before filing the second petition to learn whether a waiting period applies in your case.
If you filed a bankruptcy petition under chapters 7 or 13 and the court denied a discharge, you can generally file a new petition at any time, but you usually cannot receive a discharge of debts that you listed in the first petition. Again, you should consult a bankruptcy attorney to learn whether exceptions to the general rules apply in your specific case.
Bankruptcy is complex and many answers depend upon your specific situation. If you still have questions you can schedule a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney.