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Are U.S. Bankruptcy Court Documents Public?

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Are U.S. Bankruptcy Court Documents Public?

If you or a loved one has recently filed for bankruptcy or are considering bankruptcy, you may wonder who may find out about your financial situation. While there’s a negative stigma surrounding bankruptcy, the reality is that filing is the best solution for many struggling with overwhelming debt, and there’s no reason to feel ashamed over it. 

That said, we’re here to answer common questions regarding the accessibility of bankruptcy information and whether these documents are part of public records. If you have additional questions regarding bankruptcy in Indiana, contact the experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Sawin & Shea. 

Are Bankruptcy Documents Public Record?

filing for bankruptcy

The public has access to federal court records, and debtors file bankruptcies in federal court rather than state court. This means that bankruptcy petitions are part of public records. Further, 11 USC 107(a) states that “a paper filed in a case … of a bankruptcy court are public records and open to examination by an entity at reasonable times without charge.” 

Those filing for bankruptcy should expect their records to be available to the public unless a judge decides to seal the case records, which is exceptionally rare. 

What Information Is Kept in Public Bankruptcy Records? 

Those filing for bankruptcy need to expect certain information to be publicly accessible. 

The following details will be available for anyone who looks up a debtor’s record:

public bankruptcy records
  • The debtor’s name and contact information
  • The filer’s debts, assets, and income
  • The bankruptcy case information, including the filing date, type of bankruptcy, discharge date, and bankruptcy status
  • The judge’s name
  • The bankruptcy trustee’s name
  • Information regarding the 341(a) Meeting of Creditors
  • The creditors’ names and contact information
  • The bankruptcy attorney’s name and contact information

While accessible, public bankruptcy records do not include all of a debtor’s private information. 

Some details that a filer can expect to be excluded from your public bankruptcy records include:

  • The names of children under the age of 18
  • Their Social Security number
  • The month and day of their birthday
  • Their financial account numbers

Will My Court Documents Be in Public Records?

public bankruptcy records

If you file for bankruptcy, your petition will be part of public records. As we’ve discussed, the only exception is if a judge decides to seal your case from public view. For that reason, many of those considering bankruptcy worry about friends, family, and co-workers finding out about their filing status. Fortunately, the likelihood of anyone looking up your bankruptcy information is low. 

Information regarding your bankruptcy may be accessible, but it’s highly unlikely that your status will be distributed to the public, meaning that people will likely not find out about your bankruptcy. While there are certainly ways in which someone could look up your bankruptcy records — more on that below — they’ll need a reason to suspect that you filed. To uncover your bankruptcy status, they’ll need to already be searching for your bankruptcy information. If they don’t have a reason to think you’re undergoing bankruptcy, it would be odd for them to look up your filing information, especially because finding your case details is time-consuming and usually costs money. Of course, if someone is wondering about your financial aptitude, they can search to find out whether you have ever filed for bankruptcy. 

Strangely, some jurisdictions publish bankruptcy filings online and in local newspapers, but this is rare. You can find out whether your court will publish your bankruptcy status by contacting them directly, or you can ask a bankruptcy attorney. 

How to Find Bankruptcies on Public Records

Once a debtor files for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court’s clerk will add their information to the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service. Technically, anyone can access PACER, but you must create an account and be willing to pay a fee for each record. 

This is another reason why those filing shouldn’t worry about friends and family finding out — someone would need to be willing to create an account and pay for your record to confirm that you filed for bankruptcy. If they don’t have a reason to look into your bankruptcy, the likelihood of them searching to find your information is low.  

Another method of public access for court documents, public records, and more is the Multi-Court Voice Case Information System (McVCIS). This is an automated service that provides case details in a computer-synthesized voice. The service is available free of charge 24/7, and you can reach it by calling 866-222-8029.  

With PACER and McVCIS, you can learn basic information from a bankruptcy record, including:

  • Case filing date
  • Name of the debtor 
  • Case status 
  • The type of bankruptcy, such as Chapter 7 or Chapter 13
  • Name of the judge
  • Name of the trustee
  • Name and contact information of the debtor’s attorney
  • Discharge date
  • Information about the Meeting of Creditors

In addition to these public methods, there are third-party websites that serve as search engines for court records, such as BankruptcyData and LexisNexis. Like with PACER, you’ll need to pay a fee to access a debtor’s bankruptcy records. 

Contact a Bankruptcy Attorney Today

If you’re considering bankruptcy or are going through the process, it’s important to remember that there’s no shame in filing. Bankruptcy is the best financial option for many inundated with debt, and it may be the right tool to get your finances back on track. 

For bankruptcy assistance in Indiana, contact the experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Sawin & Shea, LLC. You can schedule a free case consultation today online or by calling 317-759-1483.

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