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Can I File for Bankruptcy More Than Once? 

Law Office of Jason Cline Nov. 10, 2022

Partial view of woman filling in bankruptcy formMany people think – and hope – that filing for bankruptcy will help them get rid of debt once and for all. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. It is not uncommon for debtors to experience financial struggles more than once in their life. If this happened to you, you might wonder, “Can I file for bankruptcy more than once?”  

There is no shame in undergoing the bankruptcy process two or three times (or even more) in your lifetime. As a bankruptcy attorney at The Law Office of Jason Cline, I understand that the pressures of overwhelming debt can arise more than once in your life.  

Just because you filed for bankruptcy before does not mean that a second bankruptcy will be easy. I am here to explain your rights and help you navigate the bankruptcy process. With an office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I serve clients throughout the state, including Santa Fe, Los Lunas, and Rio Rancho.  

Can I File for Bankruptcy More Than Once?  

Many people who consider filing for bankruptcy a second time think there is a limit on the number of times they are allowed to declare bankruptcy. In reality, there is no federal or state law that would prohibit multiple bankruptcies or impose restrictions on how many times you are allowed to file for bankruptcy in your lifetime.  

However, there are limits on how often you can have the debts discharged through bankruptcy filings. If your debts were discharged the last time you filed for bankruptcy, you would have to abide by a waiting period before filing a second time. The wait time varies depending on the bankruptcy chapter of your prior and new filings.  

Filing Under the Same vs. Different Bankruptcy Chapters 

So, if you are allowed to file for bankruptcy more than once, how long do you have to wait between bankruptcies to have your debts discharged? The waiting period is determined based on whether you want to file under the same chapter or different chapters. In either case, the clock starts ticking on the date your previous bankruptcy was filed:  

  • Chapter 7 and Chapter 7. If your prior bankruptcy filing was under Chapter 7, you have to wait eight years before you can file under Chapter 7 a second time.  

  • Chapter 13 and Chapter 13. The wait time between two Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings depends on whether you have successfully repaid your debts and completed the terms of the repayment plan. You can file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 as soon as the terms of your repayment plan have been met. If you are still paying off the debts, you will have to wait two years from the filing date to file under the same chapter.  

The waiting periods are not the same when filing for bankruptcy under different chapters: 

  • Chapter 13 after Chapter 7. If you filed your first bankruptcy under Chapter 7, you would have to wait four years to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  

  • Chapter 7 after Chapter 13. If your previous bankruptcy filing was under Chapter 13 and you now want to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must wait six years. The only exception is if you repaid all of your debts under the repayment plan and 70% of your unsecured debts. In that case, you can refile without waiting.  

Filing for Bankruptcy After a Dismissal  

Debtors do not get a discharge of their debt every time they file for bankruptcy. Sometimes, the court may dismiss a bankruptcy case due to errors in the filing or the debtor’s failure to follow the required steps (e.g., failure to appear in court). In some cases, a debtor may voluntarily dismiss their bankruptcy case before the court makes a decision.  

If your previous bankruptcy was dismissed, you could refile immediately unless the case was dismissed with prejudice. If this was the case, you must wait 180 days before filing for bankruptcy. If you do not understand which time limits apply to your particular situation, get legal counsel from a bankruptcy attorney to determine how long you will have to wait to file for bankruptcy a second time.   

Legal Advocacy When You Need It Most  

If you filed for bankruptcy before and are considering filing again, I can help you understand your options. At The Law Office of Jason Cline, I help clients file for bankruptcy, even those who file for bankruptcy more than once. Reach out to my office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to get the legal guidance and advocacy you need.