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Can I File for Bankruptcy More Than Once?

Hunt Law Firm Dec. 5, 2023

Woman with Pen and Bankruptcy PaperProtection under the federal bankruptcy statute is available to individuals, families, and businesses in all 50 states. States have some flexibility in providing exemptions in a liquidation filing – for things like equity in a home or automobile – but the chapters of the federal code apply fairly uniformly across the nation.  

In general terms, individuals and families can use either Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 of the code to deal with debts that are out of hand. Chapter 13 allows qualifying filers to reorganize their debts and pay them off in three to five years, often at reduced payoffs.  

Chapter 7 is a liquidation plan that allows the bankruptcy court to sell assets to meet debt obligations, at least partially. After that, the individual or couple will be discharged of all unsecured debts. Businesses except for sole proprietorships are pretty much limited to Chapter 11. A business filing for Chapter 7 will see their assets being liquidated, but their debts will not be discharged. 

The question often arises about how many times a person, couple or entity can file bankruptcy. The answer is there is no limit, but there are time constraints, or waiting periods. If you file Chapter 7 as an individual and then run into debt problems a year or two later, you may be out of luck. There are legally specified time limits between bankruptcy filings. 

If you are facing overwhelming debt in or around DeSoto, Texas, and need to explore your bankruptcy options, whether for a first or subsequent filing, contact the Hunt Law Firm.  

Bankruptcy Attorney Gwendolyn E. Hunt will assess your financial situation with you and advise you of your options under the federal bankruptcy code, and then will shepherd you through the process to achieve the financial fresh start you’re seeking. She also proudly serves clients through the Dallas and Fort Worth communities. 

Can I File More Than Once? 

As noted above, there is no limit on the number of bankruptcy filings you can make, but there are time constraints and other considerations. First off, you have to consider if your filing is found to be abusive in the eyes of the bankruptcy court. In that case, you might receive what is called a “one-year bar” from filing again.  

Your case also may be dismissed if the court finds “willful failure of the debtor to abide by orders of the court, or to appear before the court in proper prosecution of the case.” This might not result in a one-year ban, but it can mean a 180-day exclusion from refiling. Reasons for dismissal can include: 

  • Destroying records 

  • Lying to the court 

  • Concealing or transferring property in an attempt to defraud creditors 

Time Periods Between Filings — Chapter to Chapter 

Let’s assume you ran up debts and filed for Chapter 7 and were discharged from your obligations in a few months. You have a fresh start, but then after the discharge, you suffer a serious health crisis and run up huge medical and hospital expense obligations that you can’t meet.

So can you file for bankruptcy again? That would depend on when your new debt obligations were incurred and also on when you filed your initial Chapter 7 petition. 

If you want to file a Chapter 13 reorganization plan, which requires you to use your “disposable income” to repay creditors, at least in part, over a three- to five-year period, then you have to wait four years from the date of your Chapter 7 filing. If you filed for Chapter 7 on August 1, 2023, then you can’t file for Chapter 13 until August 1, 2027. 

If you want to file a Chapter 7 liquidation plan, which is quick and will discharge all debts incurred because of your health crisis, you will have to wait eight years, bringing your refiling date to August 1, 2031. Remember, however, that Chapter 7 only discharges unsecured debts, but medical expenses do fall into this category 

If you filed Chapter 13 and you want to refile for a Chapter 7 after your health crisis, the waiting period is usually six years, but there is some wiggle room if you repaid all of your obligations or at least 70 percent of them in an honest, good-faith effort. If that applies, you can file for a Chapter 7 after one year. If you want to file for a Chapter 13, the waiting period after an initial Chapter 13 is two years, but this is a bit confusing since a Chapter 13 takes at least three years to complete.  

There is also something known as a Chapter 20 bankruptcy filing, which basically sees the petitioner filing for a Chapter 13 right after a Chapter 7 filing. Not all courts allow this, but in certain circumstances, it can make sense in order to deal with lingering debt issues. This is often useful when there is an arrearage on a mortgage or other secured obligation. This option is a bit complicated, so the advice of an experienced bankruptcy attorney is vital. 

Get the Help You Need 

If you find yourself in financial hot water in or around DeSoto, Texas, or anywhere in the Dallas or Fort Worth areas, reach out immediately to the Hunt Law Firm. Attorney Gwendolyn E. Hunt will advise you of your bankruptcy options and then work with you to pursue the best options available to resolve your debt crisis and start afresh in life.