Filing for bankruptcy is a significant and very personal decision. And debtors often ask, will everyone know I filed for bankruptcy? The short answer is probably not.

However, bankruptcy filings are a matter of public record. This means that almost anyone can search for and locate your bankruptcy case with enough effort and time.

Because bankruptcy filings are handled by courts, the filing records are considered court documents. Federal courts keep bankruptcy records. Typically, bankruptcy attorneys and other court and legal-industry professionals are the only ones who spend much time with bankruptcy records, however.

Federal Courts Keep Bankruptcy Records

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court system keeps files and records on all of its cases. This information then becomes public record because it’s technically accessible by the public.

So what type of information will be available? As part of those records, a lot of financial and personal information is included. Bankruptcy records and forms include:

  • Income and list of assets at filing
  • Bankruptcy case number, filing date, case status, and discharge date
  • Creditor information, including amount owed to each creditor
  • Bankruptcy judge, trustee, and 341 meeting information.

Federal courts keep bankruptcy records because the information is important and needs to be referenced during the bankruptcy proceedings and repayment period. Still, it also means that personal financial information is available publicly and kept on the record indefinitely.

Court proceedings are typically public record, unless a judge decides to seal the case record. For bankruptcy cases, that is rare, however.

Bankruptcy Records Can Only Be Accessed through PACER

Viewing court records is possible only by using the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. This federally managed case filing system is typically used only by bankruptcy attorneys and legal personnel when dealing with bankruptcy cases.

Still, anyone can register to use PACER. Using PACER requires obtaining a password, and few people (outside of legal personnel) use the system enough to go through the process of obtaining one.  Once a password has been obtained, a user can search records across various jurisdictions.  Users have to pay a fee to download court records.

Therefore it’s quite unlikely that a friend, colleague, or someone else you know would come across your bankruptcy case. Since bankruptcy records can only be accessed through PACER, few people would have the motivation to obtain a password, learn to use the system, pay the fee, and then search for your information.

Some small jurisdictions may publish bankruptcy filing notices online or in a local newspaper. But doing so isn’t common, and most jurisdictions would be restricted by volume and time constraints.

When I File for Bankruptcy, Who Finds Out?

There are some parties that are notified when you file for bankruptcy. Most importantly, your creditors will be notified (typically through mail) of your bankruptcy filing. Notices are sent out as soon as you file so that creditors can be notified right away. It’s important that creditors quickly find out, because automatic stay protections take effect immediately.

What Is the Automatic Stay?

  • The automatic stay is a legal provision that protects bankruptcy filers from further contact and harassment from creditors and can stop collections and lawsuits.
  • Under the automatic stay, creditors can no longer contact debtors about their debts. Further, any foreclosures, repossessions, lawsuits, and other legal action against a bankruptcy filer will be canceled or put on hold.
  • The automatic stay gives bankruptcy filers a chance to regroup and get their finances and bankruptcy repayments in order.

After creditors are notified, your bankruptcy filing details will be known only to your bankruptcy attorneys and any other parties involved. Unless others go seeking for that information, the details will remain listed only in the court records.

Keep in mind that a bankruptcy filing will show up on your credit report, typically for up to 7 or 10 years. Credit reports are not public record, however.  Remember, bankruptcy records can only be accessed through PACER, so not everyone will know that you filed for bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy Attorneys in Ohio Who Care

If you’re considering bankruptcy, let our team of Ohio bankruptcy attorneys help. We can help determine whether bankruptcy is your best option and, if so, which type of bankruptcy is optimal.

Ask about a free consultation with our experienced and caring legal team.

Call us today and learn more about how our bankruptcy services can help you. 614-228-4435 (Columbus), 937-222-7472 (Dayton), or 877-654-5297 (Cincinnati).

Attorney Tom Fesenmyer

Attorney Thomas M. Fesenmyer (Tom) is dedicated to helping his clients solve their financial issues in a timely and cost-effective manner. Tom has personally filed several thousand cases and has the expertise to achieve immediate results for his clients, including stopping Foreclosures, Repossessions, Wage Garnishments, Law Suits, Utility Shut-offs, Creditor Harassment, Bank Attachments, and Pay-Day Loans. Tom’s goal for all of his clients is asset protection and debt elimination.[ Attorney Bio ]

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