10 Common Bankruptcy Questions

Can I Declare Bankruptcy More Than Once?
Protesters demand that student loan debt be cancelled if bankruptcy is declared. So far, the U.S. government hasn't changed their mind on that issue. © Alex Milan Tracy/Demotix/Demotix/Corbis

Sadly, it's not uncommon for people to declare bankruptcy multiple times. Like everything else associated with declaring bankruptcy, there are rules governing the waiting period between multiple filings, and they're just as confusing as everything else [source: Illinois Legal Aid]:

  • If your original bankruptcy was a Chapter 7 case, you have to wait at least eight years from when it was filed before you can declare another Chapter 7 bankruptcy
  • If the first bankruptcy was a Chapter 13 and the second is a Chapter 7, you must wait at least six years between filings
  • You can technically file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy right after declaring Chapter 7, but you won't get a discharge until four years after the Chapter 7 discharge (not the Chapter 7 filing date). During the waiting period, you can make payments through your repayment plan.
  • The waiting period between two Chapter 13 cases is only two years, but since it takes at least three years to receive a discharge from a Chapter 13 case, it's unlikely anyone would file multiple Chapter 13s so quickly.

If you still have questions about bankruptcy or want to learn more managing debt, check out the related HowStuffWorks articles below.

Author's Note: 10 Common Bankruptcy Questions

Something that became abundantly clear as I researched answers to these 10 common bankruptcy questions is the necessity of bankruptcy lawyers. After reading a summary of rules regarding exemptions or waiting periods, I would often go to the text of the federal law where the bankruptcy rules are codified. I have never read anything more bizarrely written in my life! Legal documents aren't composed of full sentences. Instead, they are a series of semi-related clauses strung together by incomprehensible legalese and baffling caveats.

If I tried to file for bankruptcy without a lawyer, I have no doubt that my case would be dismissed on some technicality buried deep in the gibberish of Article V, section XVI, subsection ix. I'm glad to see that there are free legal aid services catering to folks who can't afford a private bankruptcy lawyer. Which brings up the question: What person filing for Chapter 7 can afford a lawyer?

Related Articles


  • Atlas, Janel C. "Bankruptcy Basics: When Should You Throw in the Towel?" LegalZoom. Dec. 2009 (Oct. 3, 2014) https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/bankruptcy-basics-when-should-you-throw-in-the-towel
  • Bulkat, Baran. "The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions." Nolo (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/federal-bankruptcy-exemptions-property.html
  • Bulkat, Baran. "The Role of the Bankruptcy Trustee in Chapter 13." (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/bankruptcy-trustee-chapter-13.html
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Bankruptcy." (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/52019/bankruptcy#toc21736
  • Fannie Mae. "Significant Derogatory Credit Events -- Waiting Periods and Reestablishing Credit." July 29, 2014 (Oct. 4, 2014) https://www.fanniemae.com/content/guide/sel072914.pdf#page=516
  • FICO. "Chapter 7 & 13: How long will negative information remain on my credit report?" (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.myfico.com/crediteducation/questions/negative-items-on-credit-report-chapter-7-13.aspx
  • FindLaw. "Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Rules Overview." (Oct. 3, 2014) http://bankruptcy.findlaw.com/chapter-7/chapter-7-bankruptcy-rules-overview.html
  • HUD. "How does a bankruptcy affect a borrower's eligibility for an FHA mortgage?" (Oct. 3, 2014) http://portalapps.hud.gov/FHAFAQ/controllerServlet?method=showPopup&faqId=1-6KT-188
  • Illinois Legal Aid. "How long do I have to wait before I can file for bankruptcy?" (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.illinoislegalaid.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.dsp_content&contentid=6986
  • LaMontagne, Christina. "NerdWallet Health finds Medical Bankruptcy accounts for majority of personal bankruptcies." NerdWallet Health. March 26, 2014 (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/health/2014/03/26/medical-bankruptcy/
  • Legal Information Institute. "11 U.S. Code 522 – Exemptions." (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/11/522
  • Michon, Kathleen. "Can I still get loans or a credit card after I complete my bankruptcy?" Nolo (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/bankruptcy-credit-faq-6.html
  • Michon, Kathleen. "Eliminating Tax Debts in Bankruptcy." Nolo (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/bankruptcy-tax-debts-eliminating-29550.html
  • Michon, Kathleen. "Objections to the Bankruptcy Discharge." Nolo (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/objections-the-bankruptcy-discharge.html
  • Michon, Kathleen. "Will bankruptcy ruin my good credit score?" Nolo (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/bankruptcy-credit-faq-2.html
  • New York Fed. "New York Fed Report Shows Rise in Auto Loan Originations and Balances." Aug. 14, 2014 (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.newyorkfed.org/newsevents/news/research/2014/an140814.html
  • Nolo. "How Bankruptcy Stops Your Creditors: The Automatic Stay." (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/how-bankruptcy-stops-creditors-automatic-29723.html
  • U.S. Courts. "Bankruptcy Basics: Process." (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/Bankruptcy/BankruptcyBasics/Process.aspx
  • U.S. Courts. "Bankruptcy Filing Fees – effective June 1, 2014." (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/Bankruptcy/BankruptcyResources/BankruptcyFilingFees.aspx
  • U.S. Courts. "Discharge in Bankruptcy." (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/Bankruptcy/BankruptcyBasics/DischargeInBankruptcy.aspx
  • U.S. Courts. "Filing for Bankruptcy Without an Attorney." (Oct. 3, 2014) http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/Bankruptcy/BankruptcyResources/FilingBankruptcyWithoutAttorney.aspx


After the Equifax Breach, Does Credit Fraud Monitoring Really Help?

After the Equifax Breach, Does Credit Fraud Monitoring Really Help?

Do you need to pay for credit fraud monitoring? HowStuffWorks explores the world of credit monitoring.

More to Explore