You can file a new case 8 years after filing a previous case (so, now or very soon), or possibly only 6 or 4 or 2 years after, or sometimes even after no delay.
The last blog was about the huge number of people who filed bankruptcy in the months leading up to October 17, 2005. That was the date a major revision of the bankruptcy laws went into effect, and was the reason for the rush of fling right before. Nearly two and a half million bankruptcies were filed in the year before that date, by far the most in any year-long period in history. If you happen to be among the people who filed one of those cases, or know somebody who did, today’s blog may be of special interest to you.
Qualifying for a Discharge of Debts
There are a number different kinds of rules about qualifying to file bankruptcy. Some pf the rules get into financial considerations—like the amount of your income and/or expenses for the Chapter 7 “means test,” or debt limits for Chapter 13. We need to consider these other qualifying rules, but today we focus only on the length of time required from an earlier bankruptcy filing until a new one.
The Focus on a Previous “Discharge”
More precisely the timing rules refer to the amount of time from the filing of a previous bankruptcy case which resulted in the discharge of debts until the filing of a new case also resulting in the discharge of debts.
“Discharge” is the legal write-off of debts provided by the bankruptcy law. It’s the main reason—but often not the only reason—for filing bankruptcy.
If you filed a previous personal bankruptcy—whether it was a Chapter 7 “straight” bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 “adjustment of debts” payment plan—and you believe you finished it successfully, almost certainly you received a discharge of your debts. Near the end of your case you should have received a copy of an order from the bankruptcy court granting you a discharge. If you still have your old bankruptcy documents, you may have that order. Bring it and/or whatever paperwork you have from your old case–if you still have any–to your attorney for your new case. Even if you don’t have any of the old paperwork, your attorney should still be able to determine whether or not you received a discharge.
Finding this out is important. In the unlikely event that you did NOT get a discharge, then you would not need to wait at all before you can file a new bankruptcy case. (The rare exception is if the bankruptcy court entered an order not allowing you to file a bankruptcy for a certain length of time, which only happens after serious abuse of the bankruptcy laws.)
The Timing Rules
Here is how long you must wait in between bankruptcy filings to receive a discharge of debts in a new bankruptcy case.
IF you want to now file a Chapter 7 case:
–and received a discharge in a previous Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 case, you must wait 8 years from the filing date of the previous case to the filing date of the new case;
–and received a discharge in a previous Chapter 13 case, you must wait 6 years from the filing date of the previous case to the filing date of the new case, BUT you don’t have to wait at all if in that Chapter 13 case you paid 100% of the allowed debts, or paid at least 70% and met some other conditions.
IF you want to now file a Chapter 13 case:
–and received a discharge in a previous Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 or Chapter 12 case, you must wait 4 years from the filing date of the previous case to the filing date of the new case;
–and received a discharge in a previous Chapter 13 case, you must wait 2 years from the filing date of the previous case to the filing date of the new case.
IF you want to file a Chapter 11 case, the timing rules are the same as for Chapter 7 above.
(Note that Chapter 11 is usually for business bankruptcies, or if you have more debt than allowed under Chapter 13. Chapter 12 is for farmers and fishermen.)
It’s important to understand that the date the discharge was entered in the previous case does not matter. It’s the filing date that starts the clock running here.
So You Can File Soon, or Possibly Now
So if you filed a Chapter 7 case in the months of 2005 before October 17, 2005, you can file another Chapter 7 case after that same date this year. Under any other combination—previous Chapter 13 case to new Chapter 7, or vice versa—your permitted new filing date passed a few years ago, so you can file now. Make this the first issue you raise with your attorney.