People that have filed for bankruptcy in the past may face some restrictions should they try to file once more. While there technically isn’t a limit on how frequently you can file for bankruptcy, there is a limit on how frequently you can have your debts discharged, which is the primary purpose of chapter 7 bankruptcy. Filing too soon after your previous discharge would be nothing more than a waste of time and money.
Assuming that you’re filing the same chapter of bankruptcy as you did before, the allowable time difference between them is different. In other words, the time gap between filing for chapter 7 for the second time is not the same as the gap between chapter 13 filings.
Once you receive your first discharge under a chapter 7 bankruptcy, you are ineligible to receive a second discharge under another chapter 7 case for the next eight years, counting from the date that case was initially filed. Following a chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are ineligible to receive a second discharge in an another chapter 13 case for two years from the date that the first case was filed.
What makes this complicated is when filing a second chapter 13 bankruptcy more than 2 year, but less than 8 years after the first filing. Should the court reject your plan for financial reorganization, the normal back-up plan of switching from a chapter 13 to a chapter 7 filing is not viable, as the discharge from the first chapter 13 filing starts an 8 year timer before another discharge can take place.
Under some situations, there may actually be a benefit from filing a chapter 13 case relatively soon after getting a chapter 7 discharge, even though that no debt will be eligible for discharge under the chapter 13. In the even that you want the protection of the bankruptcy court while paying a tax debt through a chapter 13 plan, this method, sometimes called a “chapter 20” would achieve that goal. However, this isn’t guaranteed to work for everyone, as each bankruptcy case is different. It’s strongly recommended that you have an experienced California bankruptcy attorney review your case, so you can receive the best legal advise that’s specifically tailored to your situation.
There are other circumstances under which a bankruptcy can be filed sooner than several years after the first, but they all depend on the first case not resulting in discharged debt. For example, if your first cased was dismissed for one of several specific reasons, you only need to wait 180 days before filing again. Those reasons include failing to comply with a court order, failure to appear, or voluntarily dismissing your own case after a creditor files a motion for relief.
In the even that your first discharge was denied , you are allowed to file again immediately, but you are very unlikely to be granted a discharge of the debts from your first case. Like chapter 20 filings, this is a special circumstance that is best navigated by an experienced California bankruptcy lawyer.
Elena Steers is a highly experienced bankruptcy attorney, the founder of Law Offices of Steers & Associates, and previously worked as a Bankruptcy Trustee Assistant at the Office of the Chapter 13 Trustee in Los Angeles. Her current affiliations include the State Bar of California, National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and Central District Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys Association.