If you have previously been through the bankruptcy process and now need relief again, you may wonder how frequently the law allows you to file. Notably, the types of bankruptcies involved dictate a lot of what you can or can't do. Here's what a law attorney is like to tell you about how often you can seek relief.
Period Between Bankruptcies of the Same Type
The simplest rules to understand are the ones that pertain to filing the same kind of bankruptcies on two separate occasions. Starting from the date that the court discharged your previous case, you must wait 8 years before filing a new Chapter 7 liquidation petition. With Chapter 13 restructuring plans, it may be possible to file for a new plan in just two years. The clock starts from the original filing date of your previous Chapter 13 case.
If you previously filed Chapter 13 and now want to file Chapter 7, you'll have to wait 6 years from the date of the discharge. Notably, you can file sooner if you had fully paid all of your unsecured creditors in accordance with the restructuring plan. A court may also make an exception if you paid at least 70% of the creditors' claims.
Going from a Chapter 7 discharge to a Chapter 13 restructuring, you'll have to wait four years. However, there are scenarios where you can go directly from Chapter 7 to Chapter 13 in a process that a bankruptcy law attorney may call "Chapter 20," as in 7 plus 13 equals 20. Generally, this is used to discharge unsecured debts through liquidation and then restructure secured ones like mortgages and car loans.
Filing with Cases Pending or Dismissed
If the court didn't grant your previous petition, you may have to wait before you can file again. Typically, this doesn't apply if the judge told you to file a different kind of bankruptcy. For example, you should be able to apply immediately after the dismissal of a restructuring proposal if the court determined you couldn't afford it and should file Chapter 7 instead.
Be aware that the courts frown on serial filings. A judge may elect to let a stay of collection expire, for example, if you've opened several cases within a year of each other.
The court-appointed trustee also has a duty to determine if someone is abusing the system with serial filings. If they determine a petitioner is deliberately using filings to get repeated collection stays, for example, the trustee will inform the judge. The court may dismiss the active case to prevent abuse. Reach out to a bankruptcy law attorney to learn more.