Yes, you can file bankruptcy twice, however, if you want to receive a discharge of your debts in a subsequent bankruptcy, you must wait a certain period of time. How long you have to wait depends on the chapter of bankruptcy you previously filed and the chapter you want to file in the future.
Timeframes for Filing a Second Bankruptcy
The below time limits apply if you received a discharge of your debts in the first bankruptcy and if you want to receive a discharge in the subsequent bankruptcy.
Previously filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy:
- You must wait eight years to file another Chapter 7.
- You must wait four years to file Chapter 13.
Previously filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy:
- You must wait two years to file another Chapter 13.
- You must wait six years to file Chapter 7.
Special Circumstances That May Apply
Scenario 1: Chapter 7 After Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Under certain limited circumstances, you may be able to file a subsequent Chapter 7 bankruptcy less than six years from the filing of a previous Chapter 13. For example, if you paid all unsecured creditors in full or at least 70% of all claims in your Chapter 13, you may be eligible to file Chapter 7 even before the six-year time limit has expired.
It is best to discuss this option with an experienced bankruptcy attorney if you believe an exception may apply in your case.
Scenario 2: No Discharge of Debts Received in First Bankruptcy
If you did not receive a discharge in your first bankruptcy, you can usually file another bankruptcy even before the above time limits expire, though limitations may apply in some cases. An example of this is if your first bankruptcy case was dismissed.
Scenario 3: You Seek Only Debt Restructuring
If you did receive a discharge in your first bankruptcy, you can typically still file another bankruptcy despite the time limits, but you won’t receive a discharge of your debts in the subsequent bankruptcy. Even without a discharge, this could still be a useful option for some people. For example, even if you could not discharge any debts in a subsequent Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you could use it as a tool to structure your debts into a manageable, predictable repayment plan.
Filing Date Determines Eligibility for Discharge
Assuming you filed a previous bankruptcy and received a discharge of your debts, the time limits described above determine when you can file and receive a discharge of your debts in a subsequent bankruptcy. In this case, the filing date determines how long you must wait.
For example, if you filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy on June 1, 2018, you could file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy after June 1, 2022 (four years between filing dates), or a Chapter 7 bankruptcy after June 1, 2026 (eight years between filing dates), and receive a discharge in the subsequent bankruptcy.
If you’re currently in bankruptcy and are curious about potentially converting your case to another chapter, it is important to understand how these time limits work. When you convert your case to another chapter, the filing date remains the same—i.e., the date you filed the underlining bankruptcy is considered the filing date, even if the case was converted to another chapter.
The date of conversion is irrelevant to the time limits described above. Consider the following example:
- May 1, 2012: Alice files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
- May 1, 2018: Alice needs to file bankruptcy again. She could not file a Chapter 7 and receive a discharge yet because it has only been six years from her prior Chapter 7. Therefore, she chooses to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
- May 1, 2021: Alice is still in her Chapter 13, but she wants to convert her case to Chapter 7. However, the filing date would be based on her underlining Chapter 13. Because only six years had passed from her Chapter 7 when she filed her Chapter 13 on May 1, 2018, she would not be able to later convert to a Chapter 7 and receive a discharge of her debts.
Get Help From a Trusted Advisor
Bankruptcy law is complicated and nothing can replace advice from an experienced attorney who will answer your questions and provide guidance on your specific circumstances. We can help.
Contact us to speak to one of our experienced Omaha bankruptcy lawyers or to arrange a free initial bankruptcy consultation. If you live in Nebraska or Iowa and cannot come to our Omaha offices, we can consult with you by telephone.