The Rules for Time Required between Bankruptcy Filings
How long you must wait to file a bankruptcy case after you’ve filed a previous one depends on both which Chapter the earlier bankruptcy was filed under and the Chapter of the new case being filed:
- 2 years from an earlier Chapter 13 case to new Chapter 13 one
- 4 years from earlier Chapter 7, 11, or 12 case to new Chapter 13 one
- 6 years from earlier Chapter 13 case to new Chapter 7 one
- 8 years from earlier Chapter 7 case to new Chapter 7 one
In each of these, the waiting period runs from the earlier case’s filing date until the new case’s filing date (NOT the date the debts got discharged or the earlier case was closed).
(Note that Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” is the most common version, with Chapter 13 “adjustment of debts” cases by far the next most numerous. Chapter 12 is like a specialized Chapter 13 for farmers and fisherman. Chapter 11 is a business reorganization, and can also be filed by individuals, usually when their debts are very large.)
Less Than 8 Years if the Earlier and New Cases Are Not BOTH Chapter 7
You may have heard that you have to wait 8 years between bankruptcy filings. But notice that ONLY have to wait 8 years from one “straight bankruptcy” Chapter 7 case to ANOTHER Chapter 7 case.
It’s less of a wait between any other combinations of Chapters.
So if you believe you may need bankruptcy relief BEFORE 8 years have passed since filing before, make sure you find out under which Chapter your earlier bankruptcy was filed. If the earlier case was a Chapter 13 one, not only is the wait shorter—6 years—it can seem much shorter than that. That’s because a Chapter 13 case usually take 3 to 5 years, and with the 6 year period starting at the FILING date, that means that you can file a Chapter 7 case usually only 1 to 3 years after the completion of the earlier Chapter 13 case.
Furthermore, even if your earlier case was a Chapter 7 one, the waiting period is only 4 years for filing a new Chapter 13 case.
So, if you are close to or beyond the 4-year mark since the filing of your earlier Chapter 7 case, look into Chapter 13 for two reasons. First, it may actually be the better option for you than Chapter 7 regardless of the timing rule. And second, Chapter 13 may not be your first choice but it may well still be a good alternative, and the best available.
Lastly, if your earlier case was a Chapter 13 one and you can’t wait 6 years to file a Chapter 7 case, look into a new Chapter 13 case for the same reasons—it might be the better option than Chapter 7 and, even if not, Chapter 13 may the best available.
There is NO WAIT if the Earlier Bankruptcy Didn’t Result in a “Discharge”
These waiting periods don’t apply at all unless your debts were discharged—legally written off—in your earlier bankruptcy case. If not, you can file without any waiting period.
Most successful consumer bankruptcies DO result in a discharge. So if you have filed an earlier bankruptcy—whether a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 one—and you remember completing it as expected, your debts very likely were in fact discharged in that case. If so, you should have been sent a copy of the discharge order by the bankruptcy court. If you don’t remember and don’t have your paperwork, your new attorney should be able to get it from the bankruptcy court.
It’s worth making sure, because more often than you would think people believe that their old bankruptcy case resulted in a discharge of their debts when it didn’t. If you are in New Jersey we can find this out for you, as well as explain all the eligibility rules, when you come in for a free initial consultation meeting. We are the Law Office of Andrew B. Finberg. Please call us at (856) 988-9055 or use this form to set up that meeting with us. We look forward to being of service to you.