There are a few, limited ways that your bankruptcy becomes public record.This alone shouldn't stop you from choosing to file for bankruptcy.
Written by Kristin Turner, Harvard Law Grad.
Updated December 28, 2020
Whether or not a bankruptcy discharge is public knowledge can be an important factor if you’re considering bankruptcy.
Is Bankruptcy Discharge Public Record?
Yes. But that doesn’t mean that people are guaranteed to find out about it.
Many people worry that other people will find out that they have filed for bankruptcy. Because a bankruptcy filing is a court proceeding, any bankruptcy discharge is public record. But, just because a bankruptcy filing is public record doesn't mean you should let that hold you back from deciding to get relief.
How Do People Find Out That I Have Filed For Bankruptcy?
Notice to the Creditors.
When you fill out your bankruptcy petition, you will list everyone that you owe money to. The court will then notify your creditors of the filing. Some creditors may, then, attend your Meeting of the Creditors.
The Meeting of the Creditors is held between you, your bankruptcy attorney, and your creditors. At this meeting, your creditors will have a chance to interface with you in person over the details of your filing and provide any objections. This meeting can be attended by the public, though no invitations or postings are sent out.
The Pacer System & Court Records
A bankruptcy filing becomes public record after you submit your bankruptcy petition. Someone from the court (typically a clerk) will upload your documents and bankruptcy schedule into the Pacer system.
The PACER system is a program used by the federal courts to keep track of any and all court documents. Any kind of paperwork that goes through a court will usually be added to the PACER system, and can therefore be accessed by the public. To access the system, you need to create a PACER account and pay a small fee per page that is viewed.
After your case is complete, your bankruptcy discharge will also appear on your credit report for up to 10 years. The discharge appears on your credit report in order to inform potential creditors of your credit history.
When might my credit report come up?
Credit reports are most commonly seen during background or credit checks when you apply for things. This is usually done for things like housing, a new job, and anything else where your personal history is important.
Individuals looking to run a background or credit check on your history may ask you for things like your Social Security number, ID, etc. Generally, these can’t be checked without your permission. So you can always opt not to share this information if you don’t feel comfortable sharing it.
Potential creditors and lenders can use information you provide them with to retrieve your credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus. On your report they will see your discharge, when it occurred, and any other information that relates to your credit.
Will My Bankruptcy Discharge Record Be Published In The News?
Another concern among bankruptcy filers is that their bankruptcy discharge will be published in their local paper.
Although the court will not notify the local paper, some publications have a small section like "Public Notices," where they report small happenings at the local court. New births, deaths, marriages, and occasionally, bankruptcy filings. That said, it is an extremely outdated practice, and is only practiced in a handful of small towns throughout America.
Can You Remove Bankruptcy From Public Record?
Unfortunately, there is no current way to entirely remove a bankruptcy filing from public record.
Your bankruptcy will only appear on your credit report for ten years. After that, it will generally only be available through court records. This is because your bankruptcy filing is just like any other public court proceeding.
There are a few, limited ways that your bankruptcy becomes public record. Current and future lenders will generally be able to find out through court documents and your credit report.
Even though your bankruptcy discharge is public record, that shouldn't stop you from choosing to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is one of the most powerful tools available to individuals. It allows you to restore your financial situation to a stable point, remove overbearing debts, and begin your new financial future with a sense of security and freedom.
While you may have feelings of shame due to a bankruptcy filing, the truth is that it is extremely common. So long as you work to improve your financial standing and creditworthiness, the memory of your bankruptcy will quickly be replaced by new, positive financial future.