How many times can you file bankruptcy in a lifetime?

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Filing for bankruptcy can be a difficult decision, but it can provide relief for individuals and businesses struggling with overwhelming debt. However, one common question that arises is how many times a person can file for bankruptcy in their lifetime. In this article, we will explore the answer to this question and provide a comprehensive understanding of the limitations and options available.

Bankruptcy Basics

Before diving into the number of times one can file for bankruptcy, it is essential to understand the basics of bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a legal process that allows individuals or businesses to eliminate or restructure their debts under the supervision of a court. It provides a fresh start for those burdened with unmanageable debt.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also known as liquidation bankruptcy, is the most common type of bankruptcy filed by individuals. It involves the liquidation of non-exempt assets to repay creditors. Once the process is complete, most remaining debts are discharged, providing a clean slate for the filer.

Limitations: According to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, an individual can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy once every eight years. This means that if you have previously filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must wait for eight years from the date of your previous filing before you can file for it again.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 bankruptcy, also known as reorganization bankruptcy, allows individuals with a regular income to create a repayment plan to pay off their debts over a period of three to five years. It provides an opportunity to catch up on missed mortgage or car payments while keeping their assets.

Limitations: The U.S. Bankruptcy Code does not impose a specific limit on the number of times an individual can file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, there are limitations on the timeframe between filings if you want to receive a discharge of debts. If you previously received a discharge in a Chapter 13 case, you must wait two years before filing for another Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you received a discharge in a Chapter 7 case, you must wait four years before filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is primarily designed for businesses but can also be utilized by individuals with substantial debts. It allows for the reorganization of debts while the business or individual continues to operate. Chapter 11 bankruptcy provides more flexibility and control over the restructuring process.

Limitations: Similar to Chapter 13 bankruptcy, there are no specific limitations on the number of times an individual can file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. However, the process can be complex and costly, making it less common for individuals to file multiple times.


In conclusion, the number of times an individual can file for bankruptcy in their lifetime depends on the type of bankruptcy they are filing for. For Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the waiting period is eight years between filings. For Chapter 13 bankruptcy, there are limitations on the timeframe between receiving a discharge. Chapter 11 bankruptcy does not have specific limitations, but it is less common for individuals to file multiple times due to its complexity and cost.

It is essential to consult with a bankruptcy attorney to understand the specific rules and limitations that apply to your situation. Bankruptcy laws can vary, and an attorney can provide guidance tailored to your unique circumstances.


– United States Courts:
– Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute: