Often times I am asked by a new client who has filed bankruptcy before, "can I file twice?" First, I always start by explaining to my clients that the law does not necessarily place a limit on how often you can file. Instead, the bankruptcy laws aim to limit, and do place strict limits on, the number of times that you can obtain a discharge of your debts.
Can You File Bankruptcy Twice?
So, can you file bankruptcy twice? It depends on whether you want a discharge in your second case filing. If you are not seeking a discharge (for example, you are filing a Chapter 13 repayment case to repay all of your debts but over time), then you can file twice. But if you are seeking a discharge, then your lawyer will have to determine how long ago your prior case was filed and if you qualify to file again at this time. There is always a waiting period between successive discharges, and you must wait the requisite waiting period to be able to file bankruptcy again and obtain a discharge of your debts.
Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13
Whether you file under Chapter 7 versus 13 will affect your eligibility to obtain a discharge. If you are filing Chapter 7 you will generally have to wait to file until it has been 8 years from the time that you filed your prior case if the prior case was a Chapter 7 or 6 years if the prior case was a Chapter 13 in order to be eligible to obtain a discharge in your subsequent Chapter 7. If you are filing Chapter 13 you will generally have to wait to file until it has been 4 years from the time that you filed your prior case if the prior case was a Chapter 7 or 2 years if the prior case was a Chapter 13 in order to be eligible to obtain a discharge in your subsequent Chapter 13.
There are nuances and exceptions to these rules. So if you have filed a prior Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case and are wondering if you can you file twice, talk an experienced lawyer to determine your eligibility to obtain a discharge in your second bankruptcy case. Depending upon the Chapter you filed under the first time and the Chapter you now want to file under, you may or may not be eligible to file again at this time.
Stop Home Foreclosure
You may need to file bankruptcy just to stop foreclosure of your home and repay your missed payments over time. In such a case, you will not necessarily be concerned with whether you can obtain a discharge, so theoretically you could file twice even if you filed before only a year ago. This is because you are not filing for a discharge but rather solely for the purpose of stopping a foreclosure.
If, however, you need to obtain a discharge, such as in order to erase a second mortgage or just to eliminate your credit card debt, you will have to wait a certain number of years from the time that you file bankruptcy before you will be eligible to receive a discharge of your debts in your subsequent case filing.
Also, if your second case is filed within less than one year of your last case was filed, you may not receive the same protections in your second case as you enjoyed in your first case that you filed. When you file bankruptcy twice within a one year period the automatic stay that will usually stop home foreclosure and other adverse creditor actions will automatically terminate after 30 days unless you get a special order from the Court extending the stay for the duration of your case. If you are filing for the third time in a one year period, there technically is no stay. Your lawyer needs to rush into Court and request that the Court specifically order a stay in your case.