Since the economic recession of 2008, many Georgians have made the decision to file for bankruptcy as a means to wipe clean their financial slate and move forward with a brighter economic outlook.  After filing for bankruptcy, many people are able to erase most – if not all – of their debts and can then start over without a heavy debt burden hanging over their heads.

Unfortunately, some people do encounter financial troubles at multiple points in their life, leaving a number of Georgians to wonder if they can file bankruptcy a second (or third, or fourth) time if they have already filed for bankruptcy in the past.  By working with a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney, Georgians can learn the allowances and limitations of the bankruptcy system and whether filing a second time is the right choice for them and their families.

Important: Time Limits are for Discharges and not Filings

Bankruptcy law only sets time limitations on when a person can file a second bankruptcy if that person already received a debt discharge (meaning that the bankruptcy court wiped away the person’s debt).  If the person’s first bankruptcy filing was denied and no discharge was received, there is normally no time limit on when the person may file bankruptcy again.

Time Limitations for Multiple Chapter 7 Filings

There are two types of bankruptcies that an individual or family may file – Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.  In Chapter 7, the individual or family sells any non-exempt property or assets in order to pay off as much of their debt as possible, with the remaining debt discharged at the end of this process.  If a person received a Chapter 7 discharge, the person may not receive a second Chapter 7 discharge within eight years from the date of filing the first Chapter 7 case.

Time Limitations for Multiple Chapter 13 Filings

In Chapter 13, the family creates a modified repayment plan in order to pay back its creditors over a specified period of time (typically about 5 years).  The bankruptcy court must approve this plan.  At the conclusion of the plan period, any remaining debt is discharged.  If a person received a Chapter 13 discharge, the person may not receive a second Chapter 13 discharge within two years from the date of the filing of the first Chapter 13 case.

It is important to point out that multiple Chapter 13 filings present their own unique set of challenges due to potential issues that can occur if the bankruptcy court does not confirm a person’s Chapter 13 repayment plan.  By working with an experienced attorney, Georgians who have previously filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can get a clear idea of when they may file another case in the future.

What About Filing Subsequent Bankruptcies Under Different Chapters?

If a person received a discharge under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the person may not receive a subsequent Chapter 7 discharge until six years have passed from the date the Chapter 13 case was filed.  However, if during the Chapter 13 the person paid all of his/her unsecured creditors in full or paid at least 70% of all of the claims, this six-year limitation may not apply.

If a person received a discharge under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, he/she may not receive a subsequent Chapter 13 discharge until four years have passed from the date the Chapter 7 case was filed.

What if the Court Dismissed My First Bankruptcy Filing?

If the bankruptcy court dismissed your first filing, you can simply re-file the case – unless the court orders that you cannot due to a finding of attempted fraud or failure to file necessary documents, appear in court, etc.  A case dismissal is another good example of why it would be best to contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney.  To learn more about how bankruptcy may help you or a loved one, contact our office today.  We look forward to speaking with you!