Yes, bankruptcy discharge records are generally public records. When a bankruptcy case is filed in the United States, it becomes a matter of public record, and various documents related to the case, including the bankruptcy discharge, are typically available to the public. The bankruptcy discharge is an important document that signals the successful completion of a bankruptcy case, and it releases the debtor from their liability for most of the debts included in the bankruptcy. The discharge records are typically available through the federal bankruptcy court where the case was filed. They can also be accessed through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system, which is an online database that provides access to federal court records, including bankruptcy filings and related documents. Some information, such as personal identification numbers and some financial account numbers, may be redacted to protect the privacy and security of individuals involved in the case.
How Do People Find Out That I Have Filed For Bankruptcy?
When you file for bankruptcy, it becomes a matter of public record, and various parties can find out about your bankruptcy filing through legal and public channels. Here’s how people might discover that you’ve filed for bankruptcy:
Creditors: Creditors you owe money to will be notified of your bankruptcy filing through the official legal process. This typically occurs automatically once you’ve filed for bankruptcy. Creditors are required to stop any collection efforts once they are notified of your bankruptcy filing.
Credit Reporting Agencies: The bankruptcy filing will be reported to the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). This will negatively impact your credit score, and anyone who checks your credit report, such as lenders or potential landlords, will see that you’ve filed for bankruptcy.
Public Records: Bankruptcy filings are public records and can be accessed through the federal bankruptcy court where the case was filed. Interested parties, such as journalists, researchers, or individuals who actively search for bankruptcy records, can find information about your bankruptcy by accessing these records through the court system.
Creditors’ Meetings: Creditors are typically notified of the creditors’ meeting (341 meeting) where you and your bankruptcy trustee discuss the case. Creditors have the option to attend this meeting and ask questions about your financial situation.
Public Notices: In some cases, bankruptcy filings may be published in local newspapers or legal publications, especially if it’s a business bankruptcy or a Chapter 7 bankruptcy where there are assets to be sold or distributed.
Creditors’ Networks: Information about bankruptcy filings is sometimes shared among creditors and financial institutions. If you have accounts or relationships with certain financial entities, they may become aware of your bankruptcy filing.
Background Checks: If you’re applying for certain jobs or professional licenses, or if you’re trying to rent property, some employers, landlords, or licensing authorities may perform background checks that reveal your bankruptcy history.
Court Records Searches: Researchers, private investigators, and background check services may access bankruptcy records through databases or by visiting the relevant bankruptcy court.
Will My Bankruptcy Discharge Record Be Published In The News?
Some people worry that when they file for bankruptcy, it might end up in their local newspaper. While the court won’t directly tell the paper about it, some papers have a section for “Public Notices” where they share local court happenings, like births, deaths, marriages, and sometimes even bankruptcy filings. However, this practice is quite old-fashioned and only happens in a few small towns in the U.S. nowadays.
Can You Remove Bankruptcy From Public Record?
Records related to bankruptcy filings are public records and unfortunately it is challenging to completely remove a bankruptcy from the public record. Bankruptcy records typically stay on your credit report for a certain number of years, depending on the type of bankruptcy you filed:
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy: Typically remains on your credit report for 10 years from the filing date.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy: Usually remains on your credit report for 7 years from the filing date.
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