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Is it possible to file personal bankruptcy more than once?

Changes to the bankruptcy laws in 2005 changed the limits on how many times a person can file bankruptcy as well as the number of years required between bankruptcies. However, if you filed for bankruptcy and never received a discharge, for example a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is a debt consolidation and repayment plan for individuals, and your debts were repaid, than these new rules do not apply.

In a Chapter 13, the bankruptcy trustee sets up a repayment plan that lasts between 3- to 5 years, after that plan ends any remaining debt is then discharged. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharges your debts without a repayment period.

There are waiting periods between filings that must be followed in order to receive a full discharge of your debt. After a case is dismissed you may be barred from filing a new case for 180 days, depending on the circumstances surrounding the reasons for the dismissal.

If you filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, what some consider a "straight" bankruptcy, and received a discharge of your debts, you can file for bankruptcy again in 8 years from the date of your original filing. If you do not wait the full 8 years your case will be denied.

If you originally filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and received a full discharge of your debt and then decide you want to file a Chapter 13, then you need only wait 4 years from the date of your Chapter 7 filing. If you previously filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and received a discharge of your unsecured debts following the repayment period, time limits then apply as to when you are eligible to file for either bankruptcy again.

The types of debts that can be discharged vary from the two types of bankruptcy and certain types of debt cannot be discharged in either bankruptcy. These include debts owed to the government, such as local, state and federal taxes, debts owed to an ex-spouse such as child support and alimony, among other types of debt. Both types of bankruptcies invoke an automatic stay, meaning creditors can no longer request payment on debts once you file for bankruptcy protection.

Although having filed a previous bankruptcy does not prevent you from filing a second bankruptcy, there are time limits and other requirements that may affect which type of bankruptcy you can file and when. Bankruptcy laws can be complicated for many so you may want to consult with a bankruptcy attorney to learn what rules apply in your specific situation.

Source: Jornal.US News Service, "Can You File Bankruptcy Twice?," Moises Apsan, April 25, 2012

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