In most cases, the purpose for filing bankruptcy is to obtain a “discharge.” A discharge is a document issued by a bankruptcy judge that serves as legal proof that you have satisfied your obligation to affected creditors. Should a creditor attempt to come after you for a discharged debt, your discharge order will serve as proof that the creditor’s claim has no merit.
Similarly, a discharge can be used to clean up your credit reports. If your credit files show an unpaid balance on a debt that was discharged, you can use your discharge order to force the credit reporting agency to change its records.
What happens if your file for bankruptcy – either Chapter or Chapter 13 – but circumstances lead you back into financial crisis and you have to file again. Are you allowed to file more than one bankruptcy in your life?
Fortunately, the answer is “yes” – you can file multiple bankruptcy cases if you need to do so. However, there are some very specific rules that limit these subsequent filings.
- Chapter 7 after a Chapter 7 – if you file a Chapter 7 and receive a discharge, you must wait eight years from the date of the first filing before you can file a 2nd Chapter 7.
- Chapter 7 after Chapter 13 – if you filed a Chapter 13 and received a discharge, you must wait six years from the date of your Chapter 13 filing before you can file a Chapter 7, unless the Chapter 13 plan provided for a minimum 70% dividend to unsecured creditors.
- Chapter 13 after Chapter 7 – if you filed a Chapter 7 and received a discharge, you must wait four years before you can file a Chapter 13 and be eligible for a discharge. As my colleague Jay Fleischman points out in this informative blog post, however, a debtor can file a Chapter 13 within the four year period to stop foreclosure and cure a mortgage arrearage even if that debtor will not end up with a discharge.
- Chapter 13 after Chapter 13 – if you filed a Chapter 13 and received a discharge, you must wait two years before you can receive a discharge in a second Chapter 13 case. You can file a 13 before the expiration of two years and pay back creditors, but you will not be eligible for a discharge.
by Jonathan Ginsberg, Atlanta bankruptcy lawyer
Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.
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Last modified: May 22, 2013