The short and simple answer is: YES, you can file bankruptcy for the second or even third time. Although there are no specifics on how often you can file for bankruptcy, there is a restriction as to when you can file for a second bankruptcy after filing for a first one. The length of waiting period is usually dependent on the type of bankruptcy you pursued the first time.
Initial Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Discharge
Let us say you initially filed a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and received a discharge for it, allowing you to be free from most of the debt you have accumulated. The amount of time you have to wait for another filing would depend on the second bankruptcy type you want to file.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy to Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
If you are filing for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you will need to 8 years from the date you filed the first Bankruptcy documents. Note that the 8 years starts from the FILING date and not the grant of bankruptcy. Hence, if you filed for Chapter 7 on the year 2000, you can file again on the year 2008.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy to Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
If you are filing for a Chapter 13 after being initially discharged for a Chapter 7, you will have to wait just 4 years from the time you filed the initial bankruptcy application. The wait is therefore shorter but only available if you gathered a favorable discharge with the first bankrtupcy.
Initial Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
The situation is different if you initially filed and gained a favorable discharge from a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and may be dependent on how you paid off your remaining debts after Chapter 13. As you know, there is a marked difference between a Chapter 7 and a Chapter 13. Chapter 7 is often viewed as a clean slate type, wiping out all debts except for those specifically exempted by the law. Chapter 13 however does not wipe out debts but rather, makes it easier for you to pay off the amount. Chapter 13 can be loosely viewed as debt consolidation, allowing you to pay off a small amount each month for a specific number of years.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy to Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
If you initially file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, you will have to wait 6 years before filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Again, you count 6 years from the time of filing of the initial Chapter 13. For example, if you file a Chapter 13 on 2000, you can file a Chapter 7 on the year 2006.
However, there are instances when you can file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy within 6 years after an initial Chapter 13 discharge. This is only possible if you have managed to pay off more than 70% of your debts from the Chapter 13.
For example, say you filed for a Chapter 13 on the year 2000 with a debt of $10,000. If you wish to file Chapter 7 in 2004 which is within 6 years, you must have paid at least $7,000 or 70% of the debt. If this is not the case, then your Chapter 7 application will be declined. You will have to wait until the year 2006 before your Chapter 7 is accepted.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy to Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
The wait is shorter if your initial Bankruptcy filing was a Chapter 13 followed by another Chapter 13. Since the debt is simply carried with none wiped out, you only have to wait 2 years before filing a second case. Hence, if you filed for Chapter 13 on year 2000, you can file another one in the year 2002.
What if there is No Initial Discharge?
Note that the waiting period above applies only when you have actually gained a discharge from the
state. If this is not the case, then you do not have to wait before submitting another application. This means that you are denied rather than dismissed. Denial connotes that the court does not deem your bankruptcy application worthy, which may be attributable to different causes. Nowadays, the law is very strict with the regulations regarding bankruptcy and employs a mathematical equation to fully understand whether you are in dire financial straits to warrant a discharge. This being the case, re-submitting your bankruptcy application after being DENIED will not really bode well for your chances. Since they will be looking at the same information, there’s every chance you will be denied again. This is when the input of a lawyer becomes crucial to ensure that your information will reflect a financial situation suitable for a bankruptcy grant.
A dismissal is another matter. If your case is dismissed, then you will have to wait 180 days before filing another motion for bankruptcy. With dismissal, it doesn’t matter what kind of Chapter you initially filed for. Reasons for dismissal are varied ranging from failure to appear in court, failure to obey a court order, or even a voluntary dismissal.
Consulting Your Lawyer
How many times you can file for bankruptcy depends largely on your current situation and your past bankruptcy applications. One thing you can be sure though is that with each filing, you’ll be getting a poorer reception from the State. This is why it’s often a good idea to consul a bankruptcy lawyer, especially if you’re filing a second or third bankruptcy. The assistance of a professional makes it easier to argue your case.
Why the Waiting Period?
Bankruptcy laws offer individuals many opportunities to do something about their finances in the event of problems. Note though that the law operates to protect both the debtor and the creditor. Hence, the limitations are put in place to ensure that creditors aren’t taken advantage of even as it gives individuals the chance to restore their finance.
Note that if you commit any fraud in pursuance of your bankruptcy application, then the waiting period may be longer than 8 years, often indefinite and subject to the full discretion of the court. How many times can you file for bankruptcy may be completely cut off by committing fraud.