The federal bankruptcy laws do not limit the number of times an individual can file for bankruptcy protection. When an individual is facing overwhelming debt and needs relief from creditors, the bankruptcy laws provide powerful protection. In some cases that protection can be a discharge of debt. In other cases, it means an opportunity to repay what is owed.
An individual may file multiple bankruptcies for many reasons. When a discharge of debt is needed, the federal law limits time between discharges. After you receive a discharge in a previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you must wait 8 years before you can receive another Chapter 7 discharge; and 6 years to receive a Chapter 13 discharge. If you received a discharge in a previous Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, you must wait 4 years before you can receive a Chapter 7 discharge; and 2 years to receive another Chapter 13 discharge.
The above time periods are measured from the date the previous case was filed. For instance, if you filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy on June 1, 2005, then on June 1, 2013 you will be eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case and receive a discharge. However, on June 1, 2011 you are eligible to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and receive a discharge.
In some cases a discharge is not needed. A debtor can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and repay debts without receiving a discharge. In this situation there is no legal limitation between bankruptcy cases. This strategy is especially useful when faced with non-dischargeable debts that must be fully paid. The obligation is paid over time under the supervision and protection of the bankruptcy court. In some rare cases of abuse a bankruptcy court will deny the debtor relief. This may occur when a debtor has shown a history of repeated bankruptcy filings that have been dismissed.
If you have received a discharge and need the protection of the bankruptcy laws for a second time, discuss your situation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. The bankruptcy laws are meant to help the honest, but unfortunate debtor and can help you straighten out a difficult financial dilemma.