Oftentimes, the decision to file bankruptcy comes with feelings of embarrassment and shame. Many of my clients tell me that they don’t want anyone to find out that they have filed for bankruptcy – their family members, friends, co-workers or neighbors. Many also ask me if the fact that they have filed bankruptcy is information available to the public. This blog post explores the answer to that question.
When you file a bankruptcy petition, you are making a public filing. This means that your petition to file bankruptcy becomes a public record.
The term “public record” refers to a legal document or piece of information, issued by the government, which isn’t confidential. Saying that a public record isn’t confidential indicates that members of the public can, in general, view the information. Bankruptcies aren’t the only documents open to the public – foreclosures, tax liens, court decisions, wage garnishment and overdue child support all also qualify as public records.
After filing for bankruptcy, your case will be assigned to a district of the United States Bankruptcy Court. At that time, your petition becomes public record. Some parts of your bankruptcy will remain private, though. Certain identifying factors – such as your social security number, your loan numbers, etc. – are not available to the public.
Bankruptcy law is federal law, rather than state. Bankruptcy law provisions can be found in the Bankruptcy Code. The Bankruptcy Code requires that all of your creditors receive notice that you have filed for bankruptcy. In this way as well, your bankruptcy is not kept confidential.
That your bankruptcy becomes public record might sound frightening to you. But, generally the only people who find out that you have filed bankruptcy are your creditors – individuals or businesses that you owe money to – and anyone who co-signed on your loans. While anybody else can access your bankruptcy, that information can only be found through active searching. Unless someone has a legitimate reason as to why they need to know about your bankruptcy, it is not likely they will search for it.
Clients also often inquire into whether or not news of their bankruptcy will be published in local newspapers. In general, newspapers will not publish lists of those who have filed bankruptcy in the area. That kind of news typicall or texty isn’t “juicy” enough to make the papers, unless you are a celebrity or public figure.
If you have any more questions regarding the public’s ability to access your bankruptcy, click here to contact us.