CAN I FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY
MORE THAN ONCE?
Bankruptcy offers a way for individuals and businesses overwhelmed by debt to get a fresh start, either by discharging their debt or restructuring it to make it more manageable. Although bankruptcy filings were down due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the number of annual bankruptcy filings in Georgia from 2013 to 2019 ranged from 43,000 to more than 58,000. The hope for those who file is that once they have emerged from bankruptcy, they will never find themselves under so much debt again.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Life keeps happening, and some find themselves deep in debt yet again. In fact, an estimated 16% of bankruptcy filings are by repeat filers. If you think filing for bankruptcy again may be the only solution to your financial problems, you are not alone.
At Pytte Law, I understand that sometimes, people who have filed for bankruptcy may need to do so again. I am dedicated to helping every single one of my clients in Savannah and Hinesville, Georgia, who needs to find a fresh start through bankruptcy, no matter how many times.
Is It Possible to File for Bankruptcy More Than Once?
There are no limits on the number of times you can file for bankruptcy, but there are some restrictions. When and if you can file again may depend on factors such as the type of bankruptcy you filed before, whether there is evidence of using bankruptcy as a way to spend freely then discharge the debt or even the judge’s opinion about multiple bankruptcies on a case-by-case basis.
You can file under the same bankruptcy chapter as you did before; however, you will have to wait to do so. A judge may use multiple bankruptcies as a reason for delaying a repeat filing under some circumstances. There are certain waiting periods if you had your debt discharged, for example, in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
If you filed for Chapter 7, you will be required to wait at least eight years from the date of the first Chapter 7 filing until you can file again. The significant waiting period is designed to keep filers from abusing the ability to discharge all debt under this chapter.
If you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy before, you will need to wait at least two years from the date of the previous filing to file for Chapter 13 again. Chapter 13 offers a restructuring of debt which should be paid off within three to five years. Some filers discover they are unable to abide by the repayment plan and want to use Chapter 13 to restructure their debt yet again.
Can I File Under a Different Chapter?
If you filed under Chapter 7 previously and had all your debt discharged, you usually have to wait four years to file for bankruptcy again if you file under Chapter 13 the subsequent time. You won’t be allowed to have all your debt discharged but will be able to restructure it to make repayment more manageable.
You may also be able to file what is informally referred to as a “Chapter 20” bankruptcy, a Chapter 7 followed immediately by a Chapter 13. This may be an option if you need more time to pay off debts that are not dischargeable under Chapter 7, such as child support, alimony, or taxes. For example, you could have all dischargeable debt erased in Chapter 7 and then file Chapter 13 to create a more affordable repayment plan for what you owe in back child support payments.
If you filed Chapter 13 previously, you must wait six years before filing under Chapter 7 in most cases. However, if you have paid 70% of your debt in the repayment plan or paid all unsecured debts, such as credit card debt, under the Chapter 13 plan, and you can demonstrate to the court that you have made every effort to abide by the repayment plan but find yourself in debt again, you may not need to wait six years to file under Chapter 7 after your Chapter 13.
Can I File Again if My Bankruptcy Is Dismissed?
Successful bankruptcy cases are discharged, not dismissed. If your previous bankruptcy filing was dismissed, either by you or the court, you may be able to file again. You may need to wait for 180 days before filing again if you violated any order by the court or dismissed your bankruptcy to avoid addressing a creditor’s motion to lift the stay order against them.
If the court denied the discharge of your debt in your previous bankruptcy filing, you can file again; however, you may not be able to include the same debt you asked to have discharged in the first case as debt to be discharged in the subsequent filing.
You should bear in mind that when filing multiple bankruptcies, you will forfeit the advantage of the stay order the court usually issues in bankruptcy cases. That is the order that prohibits creditors from harassing you, repossessing secured property, or obtaining a judgment against you for the debt.
How Pytte Law Can Help
Filing multiple bankruptcies is certainly possible, but how, when, and what debt can be included are complex issues. You need to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can review your filing history and debt and help you explore what options are and are not available to you.
At Pytte Law, I understand the urgency and frustration my clients often feel when facing bankruptcy more than once. My job is to help them find the best option for getting their lives back on solid financial footing.
If you live in Savannah, Hinesville, Statesboro, Richmond Hill, Ludowici, or in Chatham, Liberty, Bryan, Effingham, Long, Wayne, McIntosh, Tattnall, Evans, Bulloch, or Screven counties in Georgia, call my office to schedule a consultation.
Explore your options for filing a subsequent bankruptcy. Call now.