Overwhelming debt and financial hardship may happen more than once in your life. If you find yourself in a tough spot with immense debt after filing bankruptcy, sometimes the only option is to file again. There’s no limit on how often you can file for bankruptcy, but there’s a waiting period you’ll need to abide by based on when and what type of bankruptcy you filed for before.

How Many Times Can You File for Bankruptcy?

You can file for bankruptcy as many times as you want. Sometimes, filing for bankruptcy is the only way to resolve delinquent debts. For example, if you have lost your job or have a lot of medical debt and are struggling to pay it off, you may have no other option but to consider bankruptcy.

You may face extreme financial hardship again after receiving a bankruptcy discharge the first time. If you’re thinking of filing for bankruptcy again, there is a designated waiting time between each filing, depending on whether your previous bankruptcy was dismissed or successful and the type of bankruptcy you filed for. There are also a few consequences of filing for bankruptcy frequently, which we’ll discuss further in the article.

How Often Can You File for Different Types of Bankruptcy?

For individuals, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the two main bankruptcy options. Chapter 7 is known as straight bankruptcy, which involves the liquidation of your assets to pay off your debts. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a reorganization bankruptcy where the court will reorganize your debts, and you’ll need to follow a three to five-year repayment plan. If you own a business and have a lot of business debt, Chapter 11 bankruptcy can allow you to restructure your debts and continue your business.

The rules for filing multiple times vary between different types of bankruptcies. Here’s a look at how long you’ll have to wait before you can file again.

How Often Can You File for Chapter 7 After Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

If you’re wondering how many times you can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy again, the good news is that you can file as many times as you need. But if you’ve filed for Chapter 7 before successfully, you’ll need to wait eight years from the date of filing before you can file again. Chapter 7 is the quickest form of bankruptcy, but it has the longest waiting time to refile between cases.

How Often Can You File for Chapter 7 After Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

If you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy successfully in the past and are planning to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy now, you’ll need to wait for six years from the date of the previous filing. The court could waive this wait time if you managed to successfully pay off your unsecured debts fully in your Chapter 13 case. The court may also waive the waiting time if your repayment plan was in good faith, you made your best effort to pay, and you managed to pay at least 70% of your debts.

How Often Can You File for Chapter 13 After Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Like Chapter 7, there’s no limit on how often you can file Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the past and the court had discharged your debts, you must wait at least two years from your previous filing date to file for Chapter 13 again. This is the shortest time between two filings. It’s also quite rare because Chapter 13 usually requires three to five years of payment plan.

How Often Can You File for Chapter 13 After Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

After receiving a Chapter 7 discharge, you’ll need to wait at least four years from the filing date of your first bankruptcy before you can file for Chapter 13. In some cases, you may be able to avoid the wait time by filing a Chapter 13 right after you complete Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This is informally known as Chapter 20 bankruptcy. There may be benefits to doing this that may help your situation, but when you file a Chapter 13 after Chapter 7 bankruptcy without the four-year wait period, you cannot receive a discharge.  

Consequences of Filing Bankruptcy Too Many Times

While there isn’t a limit on how often you can file for bankruptcy, you should be aware of the consequences of doing so. One of the biggest drawbacks of filing too frequently is that you may not receive protection from the court order of automatic stay. With multiple bankruptcies, the automatic stay can sometimes expire before the bankruptcy process is complete, and you may lose protection against collection activities.

“If you’ve waited the appropriate amount of time since you filed your last bankruptcy, then the biggest consequence of filing twice will be the impact on your credit score,” says Brad Reichert, debt expert and Founder and Managing Director of Reichert Asset Management LLC. “Bankruptcy usually affects high scores more significantly than already low scores, so you may need to prepare your finances for how your credit reports at all three major credit reporting bureaus will be impacted over the next 7-10 years,” Reichert adds.

Consequently, it may become more difficult for you to qualify for a credit card, mortgage, or other credit. It’s best to consult a bankruptcy lawyer to determine if multiple bankruptcies may be right for you. Most lawyers offer one free consultation, so you can use that time to ask questions and learn more about bankruptcy law and how it may affect your financial future.

Alternatives to Filing for Bankruptcy Multiple Times

Explore alternatives to filing for bankruptcy multiple times to minimize the damage to your credit score. Although your situation may be challenging, there may be other options available that can help you get out of debt.

Debt Consolidation

If your credit score has already recovered from your previous bankruptcy, consider debt consolidation to combine multiple debts at a lower interest rate. You can apply for a personal loan and use those funds to pay off your high-interest debts. Another alternative is a balance transfer credit card. If you qualify for a 0% APR on a balance transfer card, you may be able to save a considerable amount of money in interest charges if you clear your entire balance before the end of the introductory APR rate.

Debt Settlement

If you have over $10,000 in unsecured debt and are finding it difficult to keep up, debt settlement may be a good way to settle your account for less than you owe. A debt settlement company can negotiate with your lenders on your behalf to reduce your debt, and you may be able to save as much as 50% of your debt before fees. You’ll need to have some savings or must be willing to put aside some money each month to save for the lump sum settlement amount.

Debt Management

Another option is to enroll your debts in a debt management program. Nonprofit credit counseling agencies can review your income and your debts and can enroll you in the program. They may also negotiate with your lenders to waive fees and penalties or reduce your interest rate. You’ll make a single payment each month, which the agency will then distribute to your lenders.

The Bottom Line on Multiple Bankruptcies

In some cases, you may have no other option but to file for bankruptcy a second time. While you can file for bankruptcy as often as needed based on your financial situation, you may have to wait between filings. Learn more about the consequences of filing for bankruptcy again and explore other debt-relief options like debt settlement, debt management, and debt consolidation before making any decisions. If you find yourself in a challenging situation, it’s best to consult a bankruptcy attorney or a personal finance expert on how often you can file for bankruptcy.