“When can I file bankruptcy again?” This is a common question we hear. The answer is, “It depends.” A complete analysis of the timing of your past bankruptcy filing(s) and the chapters under which they were filed is required.
Filing a new case under Chapter 7
This question has the most straightforward answer. The last bankruptcy filing date was less than eight years ago, you cannot file another Chapter 7. Your bankruptcy discharge date does not matter, but you have to wait eight years plus one day from the date the first Chapter 7 was filed.
Relief is still available. If you filed Chapter 7 less than eight years ago, but absolutely need creditor protection now, Chapter 13 is an option. Sometimes, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is necessary to stop a foreclosure, stop an IRS levy, or prevent wage garnishments based on new debts you have incurred (oftentimes, this means new medical bills, unfortunately).
Filing a new case under Chapter 13 after a prior Chapter 7
You can file a Chapter 13 case at any time, but there is a catch. You may not be eligible for a Chapter 13 discharge (forgiveness of debt) at the end of the case. Sometimes, even if you are not eligible for discharge, you still may need to file for emergency reasons — such as foreclosure or wage garnishment.
If you previously received a discharge in Chapter 7, you will have to wait four years after the date the Chapter 7 was filed to get a discharge under a new Chapter 13 case.
Filing a new case under Chapter 7 after a prior Chapter 13
This situation requires the most careful consideration in order to reach the proper conclusion. The first part of the analysis seems simple: If the filing date for your Chapter 13 is less than six years ago, Chapter 7 is not an option.
But it is not that simple. There are broad exceptions. The bankruptcy code says that you can still file Chapter 7 if you paid unsecured creditors in full in your prior the Chapter 13 case (which is relatively rare) or, you paid your creditors at least 70% of the amount they claimed in the previous Chapter 13 case (still fairly rare). Even if neither one of these is true, you may still file Chapter 7 sooner if the Chapter 13 plan was proposed in good faith and was the best effort you could make to repay your creditors.
Under this analysis, in most cases, the six year waiting period from Chapter 13 to Chapter 7 does not apply.
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