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Owing to your financial situation, the idea of filing for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is under consideration. One of your concerns is who will be able to find out about the action if you do file. As your attorney will explain, all personal bankruptcy filings in the United States are part of the public record. What may surprise you is that people will often have to do some research in order to find those public files.
Bankruptcy Notices in the Newspaper
In many jurisdictions, personal bankruptcy notices are printed weekly in the local newspapers. The amount of information is generally limited. In the paper, the notice will include your name, present address, and the form of bankruptcy that you’ve filed. All other details, while available through the court, would have to be requested.
The fact is that not everyone chooses to read these public notices anymore than they pore over the published reports of recent arrests. That means if you do file an action, only those who actually read that section of the paper are likely to notice.
The Major Credit Bureaus
Expect basic information about your bankruptcy to appear on the detail provided by the three major credit reporting agencies. In addition, the bankruptcy may appear on a local or state credit agency report. Anyone who is willing to pay to see your credit history and score can register with one of the three agencies and conduct a search. The data is typically limited to the filing or approval dates and the name of the court of jurisdiction.
Keep in mind that some of the creditors included in the bankruptcy action may also submit comments to the credit bureaus noting the accounts are closed due to a bankruptcy action. Again, anyone who is willing to register and request information on your credit history will see those notes.
How About Obtaining Information Online?
Public records about bankruptcy filings are found online. All court actions are maintained in a centralized database and can be found at a site called the Public Access to Court Electronic Records. Typically called PACER, anyone who registers at the site can conduct searches and find out the current status of any bankruptcy action.
The detail available through PACER is thorough. It will include information about the filing dates, court hearings, and even the creditors that are included in the action. In terms of finding out every detail of the bankruptcy, registering for this site is easily the most comprehensive.
There are also independent sites, mostly fee based, that will access public records of all types and create reports on all sorts of actions, including bankruptcy filings.
If you don’t plan on applying for a new job or conducting any other activity that would require a background check, the odds of someone searching for you in this database are somewhat slim.
Keep in mind that most people will not know about the bankruptcy unless you choose to tell them. In any event, you’ve chosen bankruptcy as the most practical way to resolve your debt and move on to a brighter financial future. Don’t let public access to the information deter you. In the long run, bankruptcy is the right solution and will help you get the fresh start that you deserve.
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