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Filing for bankruptcy a second time

Dr. Don TaylorDear Dr. Don,
My husband and I filed for bankruptcy in 1999. Now my husband has walked out on me, leaving me with all the bills and I cannot pay them. I am being harassed by creditors and my check may be garnished. Can I file Chapter 7 again? -- Shay Second

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Dear Shay,
You can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy once every six years. It's not clear from the dates in your message whether the six-year wait is over and you can file again but you should be close to the end of that six-year period. Here's what the U.S. Courts publication, Bankruptcy Basics, says about it:

A discharge will be denied in a later Chapter 7 case if the debtor has been granted a discharge under Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 in a case filed within six years before the second petition is filed.

The court records can confirm the filing date.

It's fairly easy to stop bill collectors from harassing you for payment. You just tell them, in writing, to stop. Once you've taken that step, their ability to continue contacting you is fairly limited. Here's what the FTC's guide, Fair Debt Collection, says on the topic:

You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collector telling them to stop. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action. Please note, however, that sending such a letter to a collector does not make the debt go away if you actually owe it. You could still be sued by the debt collector or your original creditor.

The original creditor, in general, isn't bound by these rules so you need to know whether a debt collection agency or the original creditor is harassing you. Garnishment doesn't just happen; the creditor would need to win a judgment against you before it could seek garnishment as a means to satisfy that judgment. Lawyers.com offers a good overview on how a creditor can collect on a judgment.

You didn't say that you're divorced, just that he walked out on you. Regardless, he's still responsible for your joint debts. Your bankruptcy will have those creditors looking to him for payment. I suggest you talk to both a bankruptcy attorney and a divorce attorney.

-- Posted: March 17, 2005




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