Written by Craig D. Robins, Esq.
For lack of a better term, I often have “repeat customers” coming back to see me at my Long Island bankruptcy law offices. It is unfortunate, but consumers who have totally eliminated all of their debts in a bankruptcy filing years ago can sometimes find themselves in debt again — especially in these difficult economic times.
The other possibility is that they liked bankruptcy so much the first time around, they want to do it again.
“Can I File Bankruptcy Again?”
This is the question I get from every one of these clients. Fortunately, the answer is YES! However, when the bankruptcy laws were changed in 2005, various waiting periods were imposed. In every case, you can file bankruptcy again; it’s just a question of how long you have to wait.
Four Important Notes About Filing a Second Bankruptcy Case
The first important note you need to know is that the waiting period starts from the date you filed your prior bankruptcy petition and ends on the date you filed your second bankruptcy petition.
The second important note is that you only have to wait if you received a discharge in your prior case. If you did not receive a discharge, you can file immediately. For example, if you filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, and it was dismissed because you were unable to make payments, you do not have to wait at all to re-file a second case (provided, of course, that you meet other necessary criteria — speak to an attorney about this).
The third important note is if your prior case was a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case in which you paid back your unsecured creditors at least 70%, then you do not have to wait at all.
The final important note is that the waiting period does not prevent you from filing again; it just prevents you from getting a discharge. You can still file without waiting — you just do not get the benefit of the discharge. Why would you do this? If the sole purpose of re-filing is to stop foreclosure, you probably do not need to wait several years, as you still get the benefit of the bankruptcy stay in a Chapter 13 case as well as the ability to cure arrears with a payment plan.
The Waiting Periods Are 2, 4, 6 and 8 Years
If your prior case was a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case and your new case will be Chapter 13, then the waiting period is only two years.
If your prior case was a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case and your new case will be Chapter 13, then the waiting period is four years.
If your prior case was a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case and your new case will be Chapter 7, then the waiting period is six years.
If your prior case was a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case and your new case will be Chapter 7, then the waiting period is eight years.
Important Note for homeowners in foreclosure: Even if you do not qualify to file again based on the above criteria, you can still file for Chapter 13 if the primary concern is curing mortgage arrears. In this instance, you will not receive a Chapter 13 discharge, but you will be able to cure all of your mortgage arrears and stop foreclosure.
The Above Waiting Periods Can be Tricky, So Get Good Bankruptcy Advice
Since the new bankruptcy laws made repeat filings somewhat complicated, it makes sense to meet with an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can give you the appropriate advice about filing a second bankruptcy.
These Waiting Periods to Re-File Bankruptcy Apply In Every State
A number of my blog readers located outside of New York have asked if these guidelines apply in their home state. They do. The waiting periods are the same no matter what state you file in.
For more info about repeat filings, see my full-length post that was published in the Suffolk Lawyer — Consumer Bankruptcy Debtors Face New Limitations for Repeat Filings . That post also contains info about specific issues concerning multiple filings in Chapter 13 cases.