Will Everyone Find Out if I File for Bankruptcy?

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Filing for bankruptcy is an intensely personal matter and, for some people, a matter that brings some level of personal shame.  When clients are considering bankruptcy, I have often been asked whether it will become public knowledge.  The general answer is: only if you make it so.

Public Record

Bankruptcy petitions are a matter of public record.  However, access to these records is limited by the fact that they are stored in the Federal Court System's Public Access to Court Electronic Records system (PACER).  PACER requires a password and assesses charges of $.08 per page.  This would be the first roadblock to a random person seeking to find out if you have filed for bankruptcy protection.  Second, there is no general publication of bankruptcy filings in any of the jurisdictions in which I practice.  While it might be possible to monitor the Bankruptcy Court's docket in order to see who filed for bankruptcy that day, for this to be published would likely bring no revenue to a publisher and be of largely no interest to the general public.

Who Will Look?

So, who will actually care if you file and would bother to look:  mostly it is companies who offer the mandatory debtor education courses.  If you will, you will likely receive several advertisements for their services, as you will get credit repair ads, and similar solicitation.  This is no different than when you get a moving violation ticket and the flood of ads from municipal court and traffic ticket attorneys inevitably begins.

Keep it Between You and the People Involved

The best way to avoid people finding out about a bankruptcy is simply not to mention it to anyone who does not need to know.  Unless your job requires a credit check, they will never know.  Your family and friends will likely never know unless you tell them.  The only people who need to know are you, your attorney, the Trustee, your creditors and the judge.