Person Filling Out Bankruptcy Form and Using Calculator

Can I File for Bankruptcy More Than Once? 

Bond Law Office Nov. 23, 2022

Bankruptcy is designed to help individuals and businesses get a financial reboot when they owe too much to ever repay. Even after bankruptcy, some may find themselves with unmanageable debt again. If you have filed for bankruptcy before but need another fresh start, you may be able to use bankruptcy as a tool again.  

For more than 30 years, Bond Law Office has helped clients in Fort Smith, Fayetteville, and throughout the Arkansas River Valley, including Clarksville, Eureka Springs, Harrison, Mena, Van Buren, and Waldron, consider bankruptcy as an option. Whether it’s their first bankruptcy or a subsequent one, we are here to provide the legal guidance our clients need to navigate the process.  

Can I File for Bankruptcy if I Have Filed Before? 

The ability to file for bankruptcy more than once is usually a matter of timing, debt, and other circumstances that can vary widely from case to case. While bankruptcy is a useful tool, the courts protect its use for fraudulent purposes. As such, a second file will trigger a close review of what happened following your first filing. A filer who appears to be using bankruptcy merely to run up debt then have it discharged will likely be prohibited from filing for a subsequent time. Judges weigh the merits of multiple bankruptcies strictly on a case-by-case basis.  

Is There a Wait Required Between Bankruptcies? 

There are general waiting periods between bankruptcies. How long depends on what chapter you filed previously and which one you want to file under this time. Meeting with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to discuss waiting periods and limits on subsequent bankruptcies is a wise move.  

Is It Possible to File the Same Chapter Twice? 

You can, but how you do it will determine the time you need to wait.   

To discourage people from filing repeatedly for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, filers must wait at least eight years between filings. Chapter 7 discharges all qualified debt, so it can be a target for abuse.  

Since debt is not fully discharged but rather, restructured in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the waiting period is only two years to refile under the same chapter. Debt is restructured in a three- to five-year repayment plan in Chapter 13. Therefore, it is not uncommon for someone who filed for this chapter to find they're unable to abide by the repayment plan. They may want to file Chapter 13 again to make the plan financially feasible.  

Can I File Under a Different Bankruptcy Chapter than Before? 

The short answer to this question is yes. Here are three considerations: 

  1. If you have had your debt discharged in Chapter 7 and want to file Chapter 13 to restructure, rather than totally discharge your debt, you will generally need to wait at least four years.  

  1. There is potential that you can file Chapter 7 followed immediately by Chapter 13. This “Chapter 20” bankruptcy process would allow you to have much of your debt discharged and then restructure the debt you cannot discharge in bankruptcy, such as back child support, taxes, or alimony.  

  1. Six years is the typical wait to file Chapter 7 after Chapter 13. However, if you can demonstrate to the court that you have made every attempt to repay your debt under Chapter 13, the judge may not make you wait that long.  

Can I Refile for Bankruptcy if My Prior Case Was Dismissed? 

Do not confuse a dismissal of a bankruptcy case by the court with a discharge of your debt. Discharge represents a completed case. A dismissal, either by you or the court, does not.  

If the dismissal of your previous case was the result of your violation of any court order or due to your attempt to avoid a creditor’s filing of a motion to lift the stay order against you, you will need to wait at least 180 days before you can refile for bankruptcy.  

If the court didn’t permit the discharge of your debt in a prior case, you can file again. However, it is likely the court will not allow a discharge of that same debt in a subsequent attempt.  

One of the protections of filing for bankruptcy is the court’s issuance of the automatic stay against your creditors taking further action against you for any debt included in the bankruptcy filing. One of the consequences of filing multiple bankruptcies in a brief time is the loss of the court-ordered stay.  

Wise & Loyal Representation 

Filing for bankruptcy more than once may be the only option you have for truly getting yourself back on solid financial footing. It is more complicated than filing the first time might have been. That is why you should seek wise and loyal representation from Bond Law Office. 

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy again in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, or throughout the Arkansas River Valley, we should talk. Call Bond Law Office today to schedule a time to talk.