There is no limit to how many times you can file a bankruptcy case in your lifetime. The frequency of your filings depends on how long it's been since your last bankruptcy case as well as the type of bankruptcy you previously filed — Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are the most common types of consumer bankruptcies.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated April 3, 2023
How Many Times Can I File for Bankruptcy?
There is no limit to how many times you can file a bankruptcy case in your lifetime. To prevent people from abusing the bankruptcy process, the Bankruptcy Code does require a certain amount of time to pass between cases that are successfully filed and result in a discharge.
No matter what your reason, you have the right to file for bankruptcy as many times as needed. This process can help you if you find yourself facing wage garnishment due to unexpected medical bills or unpaid tax debts, or if you’re in danger of foreclosure. Even if you have previously filed a bankruptcy case, you can file for more bankruptcy protection again.
How Long Do I Have To Wait Between Bankruptcy Filings?
The type of bankruptcy you filed in your previous case determines the time limit between filings. The waiting period starts on the date you filed the previous case — the discharge date does not matter.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy ➡️ Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: 8 years
Chapter 7 provides the quickest form of debt relief through a bankruptcy filing and doesn’t require the filer to complete a repayment plan before getting their bankruptcy discharge. Because of this, the wait time is longer between your first case and your next case.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy ➡️ Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: 4 years
You can file Chapter 13 bankruptcy less than four years after receiving a Chapter 7 discharge, but you will not be eligible to receive a full Chapter 13 discharge.
In that case, you can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to pay off tax debts or other types of debt that were not cleared after your Chapter 7 case if you do not want to wait the four years.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy ➡️ Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: 6 years
This waiting period can be waived if you paid back 100% of your unsecured debt in your previous Chapter 13 plan and the original case was found to be in good faith. Since a Chapter 13 repayment plan can take up to five years to complete before resulting in a discharge, it’s possible to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy about one year after receiving a Chapter 13 discharge.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy ➡️ Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: 2 years
Since the minimum length of a Chapter 13 repayment plan is three years, receiving a discharge before completing a three-year plan is only possible if an unexpected hardship makes completing the plan impossible.
Repeated Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings are sometimes used to keep the payments on the filer’s tax debts manageable. Since these types of debts can’t be discharged, the time limit between cases is less important.
Are There Consequences To Filing Bankruptcy Multiple Times?
While there may not be a limit to how many times you can file for bankruptcy, there are some consequences. In some cases, you may not get the protection of the automatic stay and/or you may damage your credit score. Without the automatic stay, you won’t be protected from wage garnishment, repossession, or foreclosure.
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Can a Bankruptcy Attorney Help Me File Bankruptcy Sooner?
A bankruptcy attorney can’t help you get around the time limits, but they may be able to help you file a different type of bankruptcy than the one you filed before and confirm the earliest date your second case can be filed. A bankruptcy lawyer can give you legal advice about how soon a second bankruptcy can be filed.
We can refer you to a bankruptcy attorney for a free consultation. If you’re eligible to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy but can’t afford to hire a bankruptcy attorney, our free tool can help you prepare your bankruptcy forms and complete the bankruptcy process on your own.
Do I Have Other Debt Relief Options?
If you are in between bankruptcy filings and unable to file another bankruptcy, you may have to consider other debt-relief options like debt consolidation or debt settlement. These alternatives can be tricky to navigate, so start by getting a free evaluation of your financial situation through credit counseling.
Different Types of Bankruptcy, Explained
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy:
Chapter 7 eliminates most debt, including credit card debt, without requiring repayment of any kind. Instead of a repayment plan, the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process liquidates your non-exempt assets to partially repay your debts.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy:
Chapter 13 allows you to keep all of your property as long as the monthly repayment plan pays for the value of your assets. The debts that don’t get paid as part of the repayment plan are discharged once the plan has been completed. The discharge of your debts gives you the fresh start you need.
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy:
The Chapter 11 process provides similar relief to Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 but is generally reserved for filers with businesses or significant assets. Chapter 11 is also a lot more expensive compared to other bankruptcy filings.
Learn more about the general bankruptcy progress by reading some of our past articles: