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Is Bankruptcy Public Record?

Vivona Pandurangi, PLC June 26, 2024

Man with Petition to file for BankruptcyConsidering bankruptcy leads to numerous questions and concerns for many individuals. One of the most common questions we hear at Vivona Pandurangi, PLC is, "Is bankruptcy public record?"  

This is an important question as the implications can affect your privacy, credit, and future financial opportunities.

As your bankruptcy attorneys, we’re happy to meet with you to explore this topic in-depth, providing you with the information you need to understand what filing for bankruptcy entails in Virginia. 

Bankruptcy 101 

Before we dive into the specifics of whether bankruptcy is public record, let's first understand what bankruptcy is and the common types individuals may file for.  

Bankruptcy is a legal process designed to help individuals who cannot repay their debts get a fresh start. It involves the liquidation of assets or the creation of a repayment plan to creditors under the protection of the bankruptcy court. 

The two most common types of bankruptcy for individuals are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13: 

  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy: Often referred to as "liquidation bankruptcy," Chapter 7 involves the sale of a debtor's non-exempt assets to pay off creditors. This process typically takes a few months and can discharge most unsecured debts, such as credit card debt and medical bills. 

  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy: Known as "reorganization bankruptcy," Chapter 13 allows individuals to create a repayment plan to pay back all or part of their debts over a period of three to five years. This type of bankruptcy is often chosen by those who have a stable income and wish to keep their assets, such as a home or car. 

Is Bankruptcy Public Record? 

Let's address the crucial question—Is bankruptcy public record? The short answer is, yes. When you file for bankruptcy, your case becomes part of the public record.  

This means that certain information about your bankruptcy filing is accessible to the public. However, it's essential to understand what specific information is made public and how long it remains accessible. 

In Virginia, as in other states, the following information becomes part of the public record when you file for bankruptcy: 

  • Bankruptcy petition: The initial paperwork filed with the bankruptcy court, which includes information about your debts, assets, income, and expenses. 

  • Schedules: Detailed documents outlining your financial situation, including your debts, assets, income, and expenses. 

  • Creditors' meeting: Also known as the "341 meeting," this is a mandatory meeting where creditors can ask you questions about your financial situation and bankruptcy filing. 

  • Court orders and notices: Any orders or notices issued by the bankruptcy court throughout the duration of your case. 

The duration for which this information remains public varies. Typically, bankruptcy filings can be accessed through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system for several years after your case is closed.  

However, the visibility of your bankruptcy may decrease over time, especially as credit reporting agencies update their records. 

Understanding Public Record 

While bankruptcy filings are public record, it's important to note that not all information associated with your bankruptcy is accessible.  

Here’s a breakdown of what is considered public record and what is not: 

Public Record 

  • Bankruptcy filings: The documents submitted to the bankruptcy court, including petitions, schedules, and statements 

  • Court proceedings: Information about the hearings and meetings related to your bankruptcy case 

  • Discharge orders: Documents indicating the discharge of certain debts 

Not Public Record 

  • Personal financial information: Specific details such as your Social Security number, bank account numbers, and other sensitive personal information are protected and not accessible to the public. 

  • Credit counseling and financial management course certificates: Although required for bankruptcy, these certificates are not included in the public record. 

Understanding what information is public and what remains private can help alleviate some concerns about privacy when filing for bankruptcy. 

How Bankruptcy Affects Your Credit and Future 

Filing for bankruptcy undoubtedly has an impact on your credit and future financial opportunities. Here's what you need to know: 

Impact on Credit 

  • Credit score: Bankruptcy will have a significant negative effect on your credit score. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years, while a Chapter 13 bankruptcy stays for up to seven years. However, the impact of bankruptcy on your credit score decreases over time, especially as you take steps to rebuild your credit. 

  • Credit reports: The bankruptcy filing and the discharge of debts will be noted on your credit reports, which can affect your ability to obtain new credit, loans, or favorable interest rates. 

Future Financial Opportunities 

  • Loan applications: While bankruptcy can make it more challenging to obtain loans, mortgages, or credit cards, it is not impossible. Some lenders offer products specifically designed for individuals who have filed for bankruptcy, although they may come with higher interest rates. 

  • Employment: In some cases, potential employers may review your credit report as part of the hiring process. While a bankruptcy filing might raise concerns, it is essential to be honest and explain your financial situation and the steps you are taking to improve it. 

  • Housing: Renting an apartment or home may be more difficult with a bankruptcy on your record, but many landlords are willing to work with tenants who can demonstrate a stable income and responsible financial behavior post-bankruptcy. 

The prospect of bankruptcy can be overwhelming, but you don't have to go through it alone. At Vivona Pandurangi, PLC, we are here to answer all your questions and provide the guidance you need. Whether you're considering filing for bankruptcy or need assistance with an ongoing case, our team is ready to help you understand your options and make informed decisions. 

Reach Out to Us for Help

Bankruptcy is a powerful tool that can provide relief and a fresh start for individuals facing insurmountable debt. While bankruptcy filings are public record, understanding what information becomes accessible and its implications can help you make informed decisions about your financial future. 

If you have any questions about bankruptcy or need personalized assistance, don't hesitate to reach out to us at Vivona Pandurangi, PLC. Our team is dedicated to helping you achieve financial stability and peace of mind. 

We proudly serve clients throughout Falls Church, Manassa, Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County, Virginia. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward a brighter financial future.