Filing bankruptcy is never a simple decision, but sometimes it is the best thing you can do in your current financial situation. There are limits to how often you can use this tool, though there are technically no maximum limits on the number of times that bankruptcy can be filed. The type of bankruptcy you elect to file affects how soon you can file again.

According to federal bankruptcy law, if you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you cannot receive a discharge if you have received a previous Chapter 7 discharge within the last eight years. Even though you are technically allowed to file Chapter 7 at any time, the inability to discharge your debts would make that a waste of money.

Similarly, if you have completed a reorganization plan under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and received a subsequent discharge, you cannot receive a second discharge for any Chapter 13 that was filed within two years of the first discharge. In some cases, courts refuse to confirm a Chapter 13 for up to six years after the date of a past discharge.

It is possible to file a Chapter 13 following a Chapter 7, or visa versa, though there are limitations there as well. For example, you cannot receive a discharge under Chapter 7 during the six years following your Chapter 13 discharge. There are two exceptions to this rule. If you paid all of your unsecured debtors in full during the Chapter 13, then your waiting period is waived. A court can also decide to waive the waiting period if you paid a minimum of 70% of the claims from the past Chapter 13 and the plan was established and executed in good faith.

You cannot receive a discharge under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy during the four-year period following the filing of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy that ended in discharge. Some courts may still decide to not confirm your Chapter 13 filing for up to eight years, however. It is not uncommon for some debtors to file a Chapter 13 immediately following a Chapter 7 discharge (sometimes referred to as a Chapter 20), but you should only do so under the advice of a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney.

None of these limitations apply if you filed a prior bankruptcy but were not granted discharge because the case was dismissed. You may be subject to a 180-day waiting period if the dismissal was due to some failure on your part to follow court orders or if a creditor successfully filed a motion for relief from stay.

If you file a bankruptcy and went through all of the proceedings, your discharge may be denied by the bankruptcy court. In such an event, the normal limitations are unlikely to apply, but the decision to allow discharge in a future case is left up to future bankruptcy courts.

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