Life circumstances sometimes go beyond your control, and if you experience multiple medical emergencies or job losses, it may become necessary to file for bankruptcy on more than one occasion. However, as our Philadelphia bankruptcy attorneys will explain, the timing of your second bankruptcy case is critically important and must be planned carefully. If you choose the wrong moment to file for bankruptcy a second time, the consequences for your case could be disastrous.
Can You File for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy More Than Once?
The short answer to this question is yes, it is possible for a Pennsylvania resident to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy more than one time. The long answer, of course, is more nuanced.
Technically speaking, you may file for bankruptcy as many times as you wish – but remember, filing for bankruptcy is not the same as having your bankruptcy case discharged, which is the ultimate goal of any filer. Filing for bankruptcy is merely the first step of the process.
When a bankruptcy case is discharged, it means that the filer is no longer responsible for the debts which have been discharged, such as medical bills, credit card debt, or personal loans. However, a bankruptcy case can also be dismissed, an undesirable outcome in which you are still liable for all of the debts you were originally seeking to eliminate. If your second case is improperly timed, you may be denied a discharge, as the next section of this article explains. But for now, there’s another important issue to discuss with regard to successive filings: the effect upon the automatic stay.
When you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, you are automatically – hence the term – protected by a court injunction, or court order, which is called the automatic stay. Put simply, the automatic stay temporarily blocks collection actions such as wage garnishment, foreclosure, and repossession while the bankruptcy is in effect.
Needless to say, the automatic stay is a significant benefit of bankruptcy. However, its powers can be diminished by multiple filings, depending on the timing of such filings. With rare exceptions in which the court grants an extension, the automatic stay lasts for only 30 days in cases where the debtor files for bankruptcy more than once during a single year.
How Long Do You Have to Wait Before You File for Bankruptcy a Second Time?
There are many factors that can interfere with the successful discharge of a bankruptcy case, including the timing of successive cases. Depending on how many years have elapsed since your last bankruptcy, it may not yet be possible for your second case to be discharged successfully. However, as with many aspects of bankruptcy, the rules are different for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 filers.
- Multiple Chapter 7 Bankruptcies – Your second Chapter 7 bankruptcy case cannot be discharged until at least eight years have passed since the date on which your original Chapter 7 bankruptcy was filed.
- Multiple Chapter 13 Bankruptcies – Your second Chapter 13 bankruptcy case cannot be discharged until at least two years have passed since the date on which your original Chapter 13 bankruptcy was filed.
- Chapter 7 to Chapter 13 – If a prior Chapter 7 case was discharged, you cannot receive a discharge under a Chapter 13 case until at least four years have passed since the date on which you filed the Chapter 7 (original) case.
- Chapter 13 to Chapter 7 – If a prior Chapter 13 case was discharged, you cannot receive a discharge under a Chapter 7 case until at least six years have passed since the date on which you filed the Chapter 13 (original) case. There are, however, several exceptions which may apply depending on your situation.
As you can see, multiple filings demand thoughtful planning in order to be executed strategically and successfully. If you are considering filing for a second time, it is in your best interests to contact a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer in Pennsylvania for immediate assistance.
Contact Our Philadelphia Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyers About Multiple Filings
The Pennsylvania bankruptcy attorneys of Sadek & Cooper have extensive experience assisting individuals, couples, and businesses with Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and Chapter 11 bankruptcy. We serve clients in Philadelphia and throughout the Philadelphia area, including:
- Bucks County
- Delaware County
- Center City
- New Jersey
- Northeast Philadelphia
Where appropriate, we can also assist with an array of bankruptcy alternatives, such as:
- Debt Consolidation
- Mortgage Modifications
- Pre-Foreclosure Forbearance Plans
- Short Sales
Bankruptcy or bankruptcy alternatives can help you manage your financial obligations, protect your assets and property, put an end to creditor harassment, and get back on the path toward good credit. Our skilled, friendly, and knowledgeable attorneys are here to guide you through the process. To speak with our New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware County, or Bucks County bankruptcy lawyers in a free and completely confidential legal consultation, call Sadek & Cooper Law Offices at (215) 995-2543 today.