Filing bankruptcy is a very personal process. Many clients worry that their friends and neighbors will learn about their bankruptcy. A common question is, “Who will know about my bankruptcy?”
First, personal bankruptcy cases are generally not reported in the local newspaper. Unless you are a celebrity or public figure, your bankruptcy is not newsworthy. More than 1.4 million consumer filings were recorded last year, so many larger newspapers would have to publish thousands of bankruptcies in their papers each month. It is not cost-effective for a newspaper to search through the bankruptcy court records to find individuals who filed in their distribution area and use valuable print space to report on personal bankruptcy cases.
Second, the bankruptcy laws require notices of the bankruptcy filing to go out to the following:
1. Everyone you owe money (called “creditors”);
2. The bankruptcy trustee;
3. Co-signors and co-debtors; and
4. You and your attorney.
Under special circumstances other notices are sent, for instance if you owe taxes, or if you want to terminate a lease or contract. Family, neighbors, friends, your employer, your bank, etc. will generally not receive notice of your bankruptcy. A common exception to this general rule is when the debtor causes a voluntary wage withholding to pay chapter 13 plan payments.
Third, while bankruptcy court proceedings and trustee meetings are open to the public, it is unusual for the press or members of the public to attend. Most of these meetings are very brief and can even be a little boring.
Finally, other than receiving notice of the bankruptcy filing from the bankruptcy court, there are only a few ways to learn of a bankruptcy case. The most common way is to contact the bankruptcy court directly. Most bankruptcy courts have an automated telephone system that will provide basic case information to the public.
Filing a bankruptcy petition is generally a private and confidential process. While there are no guarantees that your friends and neighbors will not learn about your bankruptcy, chances are they will not unless you decide to tell them. However, every case is different. If you have specific questions about the effects of filing bankruptcy, consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.