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How to Find Out If Someone Filed for Bankruptcy

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Why Should I find Out If Someone Filed Bankruptcy?

There are various reasons why you would want to research records to find out if someone filed bankruptcy. Bankruptcy records are public information and can be useful when it comes to making financial decisions. Some of the more common reasons to check bankruptcy records include:

  • You wish to determine the financial history of a potential business partner
  • You are considering lending money to the person in question
  • You are interested in learning the financial history of a particular business
  • You want to know when and for what reasons the person filed for bankruptcy

It is very important to consider two points when researching bankruptcy records. The first point is to understand the reason why the person filed for bankruptcy. For example, filing bankruptcy due to outstanding student loans suggests a different financial situation compared to bankruptcy resulting from credit card overspending.

The second point is to look at the time period when the person filed for bankruptcy. A person who filed for bankruptcy last year is probably not going to be financially stable compared to someone who filed for bankruptcy 30 years ago. Therefore, searching bankruptcy records can reveal valuable information in connection with a person’s financial status.

How Do I Find Out If Someone Filed for Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy hearings are processed in bankruptcy courts, which are federal courts. Thus, you should begin by locating the federal district where the person in question resides. All federal courts maintain an online record system called PACER that is viewable to the public.

Online bankruptcy case records are updated by the courts daily. However, not all information is always available online. For example, bankruptcy case information may not be available if it was used as evidence in a criminal trial. Alternatively, you can search the person’s credit report. Although credit reports are not public, credit records may be accessed by potential lenders or employers. Bankruptcy remains on one’s credit report anywhere from 7 to 10 years.

What Information Do I Need To Find Out If Someone Filed for Bankruptcy?

To search public bankruptcy court records, you will need the following information for the person in question:

  • The person's legal name or social security number
  • The entity’s Tax ID number if it is a business 
  • The case number for the bankruptcy file

After you have submitted this information online, you will be able to view their bankruptcy record if one exists. If you are inquiring manually at a courthouse, the process should usually take less than a few hours.

What Types of Bankruptcy Should I Look For?

There are several different categories under which person or business can file for bankruptcy. As mentioned, the category under which they filed is closely related to the purpose for filing. Some of the common types of bankruptcy are:

  • Chapter 7: Liquidation bankruptcy for individuals and businesses
  • Chapter 9: Municipal bankruptcy claims
  • Chapter 11: Reorganization or rehabilitation bankruptcy- primarily used by business debtors and occasionally by individuals with large debts and many assets
  • Chapter 12: Rehabilitation bankruptcy for fishermen and family farmers
  • Chapter 13: Repayment plan bankruptcy for individuals with a steady stream of income and for businesses seeking to reorganize
  • Chapter 15: International claims and other derivative matters

For individuals, Chapter 7 is the most common type of bankruptcy claim. Most businesses will file a Chapter 11 claim. Thus, if a person has filed under Chapter 7, then you know that they are probably filing due to personal hardship rather than for business purposes.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Find Out If Someone Filed for Bankruptcy?

In most cases, searching bankruptcy records is a straightforward process. However, if you are searching someone’s records due to a legal dispute, you may wish to contact a bankruptcy lawyer for advice. Bankruptcy records are often used as evidence in a court of law, especially if the person has previously claimed that they did not file bankruptcy. An experienced attorney can assist you in obtaining the necessary bankruptcy information.

Photo of page author Kristen Johnson

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 02-03-2014 03:03 PM PST

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