An occasional issue for someone looking to obtain debt relief through bankruptcy is a previous bankruptcy filing. Debtors are not limited to filing one bankruptcy in their lifetime, but there is a mandatory waiting period between Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings.
Section 727(a)(8) of the United States Bankruptcy Code prohibits a discharge in a bankruptcy case if, "the debtor has been granted a discharge under this section... in a case commenced within 8 years before the date of the filing of the petition."
To make a couple points clear... first, the "discharge" is an extremely important part of any bankruptcy case. The discharge is what actually dismisses your debt. Without a discharge, a debt can still be collected on, and you can still be sued by a creditor. Sometimes, it is known going into a bankruptcy that a certain debt will not be discharged, for instance a student loan obligation or some tax debts. However, a bankruptcy in which ZERO debts are discharged is pretty much worthless. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy that does not discharge your credit card debt, personal loans, or medical bills serves no purpose.
So, since section 727(a)(8) prohibits a bankruptcy discharge for cases filed within 8 years, there is no reason to actually file such a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You could technically file the second Chapter 7, but there would be no resulting discharge.
A second major point to make clear is how the 8 year period is calculated. 727(a)(8) speaks of a previous case "commenced" within 8 years. "Commenced" is just another way of saying "started", and a case is started when the petition is filed. So, to get a discharge in a Chapter 7 (the whole point of a bankruptcy!) you must wait 8 years and a day from the date you filed your previous Chapter 7. It doesn't matter when it was discharged, only filed. If you are seeking bankruptcy relief, and have previously filed a Chapter 7, make sure you inform your attorney of the previous filing date.
If you need to file bankruptcy, but it is less than 8 years since your previous Chapter 7, you may need to consider a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or take other actions to stabilize your finances. Your situation isn't hopeless, and often times a plan can be formulated to hold off your creditors. Contact us to examine your options.