It is the end of August already, and we know a few families that are sending their children off to college for the first time. These parents are excited for their kids and have spent the summer encouraging them to take advantage of every opportunity they have to learn and to grow, to explore their new surroundings, whether close to home in Chicagoland or father afield. These parents are also wondering how they will pay the tuition. College costs a lot more today than it did 20 years ago.

During the recession, some of these couples filed for bankruptcy protection. They are just getting back on their feet, but they put a lot of college supplies on their credit cards. As they waved goodbye to their kids, that lingering dread of a layoff and the persistent suspicion that their mortgage lender could renege on their payment plans had them thinking hard about how they would deal with another major financial setback.

What they may not realize is that bankruptcy is still an option. There are restrictions on how often you can file, but there is not a lifetime ban, as so many people think.

The waiting period depends on which chapter they filed in their last bankruptcy and which chapter they choose to file the next time. As they consider their options, they need to remember that the date of discharge starts the clock running for the next filing.

In general, the waiting periods are as follows:

  • Chapter 7 to Chapter 7: eight years
  • Chapter 13 to Chapter 13: two years
  • Chapter 7 to Chapter 13: four years
  • Chapter 13 to Chapter 7: six years

Again, those are the general rules. There are always exceptions. With a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, for example, you pay off your creditors over three or five years. At the end of the repayment period, any debts that have not been paid off completely are discharged. If you paid off all of your creditors during the bankruptcy, though, you will not have to wait to file again under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

Of course, the right plan for one family may not be the right plan for another. Every family’s situation is unique, but a good bankruptcy and debt relief attorney will help to determine how best to move forward.