Technically, all bankruptcy records are public through the federal court’s internet-based Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service. In order to access bankruptcy records through PACER, one needs an account set up. Those in Minnetonka can create their own PACER accounts, but the average Minnetonka resident doesn’t know that. One typically is in some sort of legal field in order to know about PACER access. Further, those with PACER access would need to search your name in order to find your bankruptcy filing. The chances of one of your Minnetonka friends or relatives having a PACER account and actually searching your name is pretty low. Plus, anyone that tries to access documents through PACER must pay a fee per page that they try to access. This acts as a natural deterrent from people casually searching through PACER.
In the past, local papers used to publish local bankruptcy filings. This may still be true for business bankruptcy filings (Chapter 11), but most local papers no longer bother publishing consumer bankruptcies. I can’t speak for all papers, but I don’t know of a Minnetonka paper that publishes bankruptcy filings. None of my Minnetonka clients have had this issue yet. The best way to find out if your local paper may list your bankruptcy filing is to grab a copy of your local paper and check the public records page. If you see other bankruptcy filing notices, they may list yours. If not, you are likely free from notice of your filing being published in your local Minnetonka paper.
After you file bankruptcy, you receive mail from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court with the court’s name, address, and emblem on the envelope. If you are concerned about those you live with seeing your bankruptcy mail, consider using another address as your mailing address in your filing. The bankruptcy court allows bankruptcy filers to use a separate mailing address for receiving their notices. This is a helpful way of avoiding mail at your home address.
One of the benefits of filing bankruptcy is the automatic stay. Once you file, something called the automatic stay is implemented in your case during the life of your bankruptcy. The automatic stay protects you from your creditors. It prevents creditors from contacting you in any way or from collecting from you. It’s most useful in preventing your creditors from calling you. Since it stops your creditors from calling you and reaching out, it can help you keep your situation discreet. Your friends and family members won’t accidentally intercept a call from your creditors and collections notices will stop appearing in the mail. It is a huge relief that starts instantaneously with your bankruptcy filing!
Some of my Minnetonka clients are concerned about listing their social security number in their bankruptcy filing. The good news is that your social security number is not made public in your bankruptcy filing. Anyone that accesses your bankruptcy filing through PACER, will not see more than the last four digits of your social. The last four digits are provided so that creditors can identify you, but the full social is not listed.
If you have other concerns regarding the privacy of a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, schedule a free consultation with one of the attorneys at Kain & Scott.