Filings Public Record?
Are Bankruptcy Filings Public Record?
In past decades, most local newspapers published a list of local residents and business owners who filed for any type of bankruptcy. The majority of newspapers no longer publish such information, misleading some people to believe that bankruptcy filings are not public record. Regardless of whether your community's newspaper publishes your bankruptcy status, the fact that you declared a case is a permanent public record that virtually anyone can access.
Most private citizens who opt for legal assistance with financial problems select Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Chapter 7 offers permanent forgiveness of many pre-existing debts such as credit cards and medical bills. Chapter 13 creates a court-supervised partial debt repayment plan; it usually takes 3 to 5 years to finish a Chapter 13 plan.
Personal bankruptcy reflects on your credit reports for 10 years in Chapter 7 and 7 years for Chapter 13. A business bankruptcy case usually does not impact your personal credit score unless you had used your personal credit to borrow money for your entrepreneurial endeavors. Most business owners who file bankruptcy choose to either cease operations under Chapter 7 or partially repay corporate debts in Chapter 11.
Any type of bankruptcy is a permanent public record, even if a judge ultimately denies your request or you change your mind in the middle of the process. Interested parties can call virtually any division of the United States Bankruptcy Court, visit a court clerk's office, or access the information electronically. Federal courts offer a low-cost Internet access program called PACER, which is the acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records. It is free to register; as of 2013 any interested party could access up to 30 pages of bankruptcy court records for $3.
Most people do not need to worry about the potential ramifications of a curious party researching bankruptcy records. But some politicians and people in positions that require handling a lot of money have been subjected to publicity due to filing bankruptcy. Some newspaper and television journalists are interested in multiple aspects of a political candidate's personal and business history and conduct their own research. In other cases, a political opponent or personal enemy could "leak" the information to the public. But generally the fact that you once filed bankruptcy should not dramatically alter your life especially if you are honest about the circumstances that led to the situation. However, always remember that bankruptcy filings are permanent public records and not to lie to a creditor or other legitimately interested party about whether you have ever filed a case.