How to File for Bankruptcy a Second Time

The process of filing a bankruptcy petition follows the most current rules no matter which type -- or how many times -- you file. The only real difference between filing for bankruptcy the first time and filing the second time is timing.

A waiting period applies in almost every situation. If a bankruptcy court granted a discharge the first time, make sure the wait period for the chapter you plan to file has expired before filing again. Otherwise, you won’t be entitled to a discharge the second time, and your outstanding debts will survive the bankruptcy action.

The only exception to the timing rule is if a judge dismisses your first case without prejudice before its discharge date. If this happens, no waiting period applies and you can refile immediately. A dismissal without prejudice is usually due to procedural violations such as filing incomplete or incorrect forms, failing to attend the meeting of creditors or the required financial management course or missing payments in a Chapter 13 reorganization plan.

Filing Procedures

Rules, guidelines and filing procedures outlined in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code apply in a second filing just as they did in the first. For example, you’ll still need to pass the means test if you file a Chapter 7 liquidation plan and meet the debt limit requirements for a Chapter 13 repayment plan. Both types also require credit counseling and a meeting with creditors. However, because procedures, rules and even the required forms change over time, it’s critical to review the most current procedures and rules, especially if the first filing took place before the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act and even if you are filing the same type as the first time.


  • Filing a second bankruptcy is no less complicated than filing the first time, especially if you want to discharge rather than pay off outstanding debts. Consult or work with a bankruptcy attorney to increase the chance for a successful outcome.

Things to Consider

You can generally expect a second filing to be more stressful than the first. According to the Hensel Law Office, a Michigan law firm, creditors may be more difficult to work with and the court will often scrutinize your finances more closely the second time around. The most important consideration before filing is deciding if it's the right thing to do and choosing the best option for your financial situation and long-term goals.

Decide Whether It Makes Sense

Allmand Law, a Dallas, Texas-based bankruptcy law firm, recommends that you thoroughly evaluate the circumstances that led to your current financial situation as well as the type of debt you have.

  • If your debt load consists mainly of secured loans, nondischargeable income tax or student loan debt, filing a second time might not provide much relief
  • If your debt-load consists mainly of unsecured, dischargeable debt, filing a second time might be worth it

Other Timing Considerations

Even if the legal wait period is over, it may still not be the right time to file a second petition. If your debt stems largely from an ongoing medical condition, complete your treatment before filing.