Understanding Bankruptcy
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How Often Can You File for Bankruptcy?

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You can file for bankruptcy as many times as you need to, but you’ll typically have to wait a specific amount of time between filings. Although it’s best to try to rebuild your credit after your first bankruptcy, filing a repeat bankruptcy can be a last-resort solution if your debt becomes unmanageable.

Understanding the rules of how often you can file for bankruptcy can be tricky. This guide will discuss how filing times vary based on the type of bankruptcy, along with alternative solutions for financial relief.

Limitations on how often you can file for bankruptcy

While nobody dreams of filing for bankruptcy, there are situations in which bankruptcy might be the only way you can resolve your delinquent debts.

For example, you might rack up thousands of dollars in medical debt, making it a struggle to pay through traditional means. Or perhaps you didn’t resolve your debts with your first bankruptcy case, and you’ve experienced extreme hardship since then.

The good news is that you can file for bankruptcy as often as you feel is appropriate. However, if you haven’t waited an adequate amount of time since your last bankruptcy filing, you might not receive a discharge of your new case’s debts.

The designated “waiting limits” between each bankruptcy filing depend on the types of bankruptcy and whether your previous case was successful or dismissed. If your last bankruptcy case was successful, traditional waiting limits will apply.

Note that filing repeat bankruptcies in quick succession could result in losing the benefits of an automatic stay order — a court order that temporarily prevents creditors from collecting debts from you. Because of this, it’s crucial to follow the recommended wait times before filing any subsequent bankruptcies.

Typical wait times between bankruptcy filings

The below timeframes are listed from when you filed your previous bankruptcy (not the date of discharge) to when you plan to file your following bankruptcy.

Following the designated wait times is essential to ensuring that your automatic stay order is kept in place.

Also keep in mind that if you didn’t receive a discharge for your previous bankruptcy, you might only need to wait 180 days before filing again. (See more below.)

Next to file: Chapter 7Next to file: Chapter 13
First to file: Chapter 7Eight yearsFour years
First to file: Chapter 13Six years or lessTwo years

Eight years: Chapter 7 after Chapter 7

If your Chapter 7 bankruptcy ended with your debts being discharged, you must wait a minimum of eight years before filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy again. Remember, the time clock starts when you filed your previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy — not from the discharge date.

Although this type of bankruptcy generally offers the quickest debt relief, the eight-year waiting period might not be feasible, depending on the urgency of your financial situation.

Six years: Chapter 7 after Chapter 13

The standard waiting period between a Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy is six years. However, this requirement might be waived if you paid your unsecured debts in full during the initial Chapter 13 case. Also, if you paid at least 70%, made a plan in good faith and worked hard to pay your creditors, you may not need to wait for the entire duration.

Four years: Chapter 13 after Chapter 7

You’ll need to wait at least four years before filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy after a Chapter 7 case.

However, you can possibly avoid this waiting period if Chapter 13 is filed immediately, with the stipulation that your new case can’t be discharged. For example, you could create a payment plan to tackle debt that didn’t clear during the Chapter 7 case.

Note: A Chapter 7 followed by a Chapter 13 is often called a “Chapter 20.” There is no actual Chapter 20 — it’s just a nickname based on the sum of “7” and “13.”

Two years: Chapter 13 after Chapter 13

Filing a Chapter 13 after a Chapter 13 only requires a two-year waiting period, making it the shortest gap period between any two types of bankruptcies. However, it’s quite rare since a Chapter 13 restructure usually takes 3 to 5 years to repay fully.

One caveat: A Chapter 13 may be discharged early if you’re experiencing extreme financial hardship.

What happens if your previous bankruptcy case wasn’t discharged

Not all bankruptcy cases end in discharge, and this can alter your timeline for filing again. Here’s what you can expect if your case gets dismissed or denied:

The court dismissed the case

This might happen if you didn’t appear in court, refused to respond to a court order or voluntarily dismissed your own case.

Unless the court says otherwise, you’re free to file again. However, you may be required to wait 180 days if you ignored a court order or dismissed your case after a creditor filed a motion to pursue collection.

The court denied your discharge

Reasons for denial might include lack of adequate documents, purposely hiding assets or perjury.

In this situation, you might be allowed to file a new bankruptcy case, but the debts listed in your previous case most likely won’t be discharged.

Tips for filing a repeat bankruptcy

Before filing a second bankruptcy, you should create a plan to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Here are four tips to consider:

  1. Decide if filing for another bankruptcy is your only option. It’s worth exhausting alternative debt relief options before attempting another bankruptcy case (see more options below).
  2. Consider whether a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy suits your current financial situation and research the implications of each type — such as how it’ll affect your credit and whether you can retain some assets.
  3. Make sure you’ve exceeded the recommended wait time between filings. Remember, the timeline is based on each bankruptcy filing, not the discharge date.
  4. Consult a bankruptcy attorney to help walk you through options and ensure this is the best course of action. Most attorneys will provide a free consultation.

The difference between Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcies

Chapter 7 bankruptcyChapter 13 bankruptcy
  • You liquidate your assets to pay off delinquent debts. 
  • Your debts are restructured instead of discharged. 
  • While you can keep some of your assets up to certain limits, you’ll typically choose this type when you don’t have many assets to protect.
  • Families and couples typically choose this type of bankruptcy because they have assets to protect, such as significant equity in their home. In the end, you’ll be able to keep all your property and pay off unsecured debts included in your bankruptcy.
  • It can take three to six months to complete, but it allows consumers to discharge delinquent debts and get a fresh start.
  • Once the process begins, a court-approved debt repayment plan is set up and followed over three to five years. 

Additional debt relief options

Although bankruptcy can offer financial relief, it’s not a perfect solution for everyone. For example, earning too much might make you ineligible for bankruptcy. Also, bankruptcy can put a significant dent in your credit score.

It’s worth weighing the pros and cons of filing for bankruptcy before proceeding, especially since the bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years.

Here are some alternative options to help repay your debts:

 

  • Forbearance: If you’re struggling to keep up with monthly bills, ask your creditor if you can temporarily pause payments. Keep in mind that interest may continue to accrue during this period, so make sure to understand all the terms.
  • Debt negotiation: For those with some cash, you can discuss options with your collections agent. For example, they might accept a one-time payment to cancel your debt. It’s wise to have a lawyer negotiate this on your behalf.
  • Debt management: Nonprofit credit counseling companies charge a small fee in exchange for helping reduce your credit card interest rates.
  • Debt consolidation: If you’re juggling multiple loans or monthly payments, you can consider combining them into a debt consolidation loan. It might be worth it to secure a lower interest rate than your current debt. However, there are many factors to consider when considering debt consolidation versus bankruptcy.
  • Increase your income: Having access to additional money can help you successfully tackle your debt. Try researching extra ways to make money, such as online teaching, selling old clothes or any side hustle that can bring in some extra cash.

Frequently asked questions

You’re free to file for bankruptcy as often as needed. However, pay attention to the required wait times between filings in order to prevent your next case being dismissed.

This depends on your previous bankruptcy and the one you intend to file. If your initial case was dismissed, you’d typically need to wait 180 days before filing another bankruptcy. Otherwise most cases require you to wait between two to eight years, depending on the type of bankruptcy.

The United States bankruptcy laws allow people a fresh start if they’re struggling with overwhelming debt. Bankruptcy can help clear debt by altering your debt’s terms, through discharge or by creating a manageable debt repayment plan.

 

You have two primary choices when filing for bankruptcy: Chapter 7 (liquidation) and Chapter 13 (repayment). Whether you need to sell assets or stick to a payment plan will depend on the type of bankruptcy you file.

A Chapter 7 case will stay on your credit report for up to 10 years from the bankruptcy file date, whereas a Chapter 13 case will be erased seven years after filing. In both cases, the bankruptcy will automatically fall off your report with no action needed on your part.

Once the bankruptcy is removed from your credit history, you can start taking steps to rebuild your credit.

 

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