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Can a Person File for Bankruptcy More Than Once?

Many former bankruptcy debtors in today's down-turned economy find themselves anxiously asking whether they are eligible to file a second (or subsequent) bankruptcy case. The answer depends on several factors. Just what are those factors?

The primary considerations include the following:

  • Which type of bankruptcy case the debtor previously filed (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, usually)
  • How long ago the prior bankruptcy case was filed

There Is No Absolute Bar to Eligibility for Subsequent Bankruptcy Filings

Fortunately, there is no automatic or absolute bar to future bankruptcy filing eligibility. At the same time, though, an individual will not be permitted to abuse the bankruptcy system and file multiple, serial cases in bad faith to evade creditors with routine overspending. That said, there are statutory prerequisites, guidelines, and benchmarks that must be met and satisfied by repeat debtor filers. There is also a great deal of misconception and even misinformation buzzing about from inexperienced, ill-advised, or ill-intentioned parties about bankruptcy filing eligibility. Therefore, it is prudent to promptly consult the counsel of a consumer bankruptcy attorney to learn more.

If a Debtor Previously Filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, There Are Prerequisites to Subsequent Filing

If a debtor previously filed a Chapter 7 liquidation case, there is a mandatory waiting period before being eligible to file for bankruptcy protection again. The debtor must wait a period of eight years from the first bankruptcy filing prior to the second bankruptcy filing date, if intending to file another Chapter 7 case. If the debtor filed a previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy case and now intends to file a Chapter 13 reorganization case, he or she must wait four years from the first bankruptcy's filing date to file.

There are exceptions to these general guidelines, of course. It is best to consult timely with a bankruptcy attorney for specific facts, circumstances, issues, and questions.

If a Debtor Wants to File a Subsequent Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, Certain Guidelines Apply

As a general premise, debtors are eligible to file subsequent Chapter 13 cases, despite filing bankruptcy previously. Incidentally, Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases involve partial repayment plans over three- to five-year periods, with some debtors agreeing to pay on average $125 to $150 per month for 36 months. There are some prerequisites to being eligible to file for bankruptcy relief again, however.

For instance, the debtor may not be able to file a new bankruptcy if his or her prior bankruptcy was dismissed in the last 180 days due to violation of a bankruptcy court's order or if he or she voluntarily dismissed the case after a creditor received relief from stay to pursue collection of a debt against the debtor. There are further requirements for receiving a discharge in bankruptcy.

It is prudent to consult with bankruptcy counsel about specific questions and issues before formulating the best plan going forward.