Are Bankruptcies Public Record?

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on March 29, 2023

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Are Bankruptcies Public Record?

Bankruptcy records are generally considered to be public records. This means that anyone can access bankruptcy records, including creditors, lenders, employers, and members of the public.

Federal Bankruptcy Records

Bankruptcy cases are heard in federal courts, which means that bankruptcy records are maintained by the federal government.

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts maintains a database of bankruptcy cases called PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records).

PACER allows anyone with an account to access bankruptcy records from anywhere with an internet connection.

State Bankruptcy Records

In addition to federal bankruptcy records, some states also maintain their own bankruptcy records. State bankruptcy records may include additional information that is not included in federal bankruptcy records, such as information about local bankruptcy proceedings.

Access to Bankruptcy Records

Not everyone has access to bankruptcy records. Access to bankruptcy records is typically restricted to certain individuals and organizations.

Who Can Access Bankruptcy Records?

Creditors and lenders are typically allowed to access bankruptcy records for individuals or businesses that owe them money.

Employers may also access bankruptcy records for job applicants, particularly those applying for positions that involve handling money or financial responsibilities.

Members of the public can also access bankruptcy records, although they may be required to pay a fee or provide identification before being granted access.

Access to bankruptcy records may also be restricted to individuals who have a legitimate reason for accessing them, such as researchers, journalists, or attorneys.

How to Access Bankruptcy Records?

Access to bankruptcy records can be obtained through the PACER system, which is the official database for federal bankruptcy records. To access bankruptcy records through PACER, users must create an account and pay a fee for each search or document accessed.

In addition to PACER, some states also maintain their own databases of bankruptcy records. Users can contact their state's bankruptcy court to inquire about accessing state bankruptcy records.

Restrictions on Accessing Bankruptcy Records

Access to bankruptcy records is not unlimited. There are restrictions on who can access bankruptcy records and how the records can be used.

For example, bankruptcy records are subject to privacy laws, which means that certain personal information may be redacted or kept confidential. Additionally, bankruptcy records cannot be used for purposes that are deemed to be abusive or harassing.

Public Access to Bankruptcy Records

Bankruptcy records are generally considered to be public records, which means that members of the public have the right to access them. Public access to bankruptcy records is important because it promotes transparency and accountability in the legal system.

Online Access to Bankruptcy Records

Online access to bankruptcy records has made it easier for individuals and organizations to access bankruptcy records from anywhere with an internet connection.

The PACER system provides online access to federal bankruptcy records, and some states also maintain their own databases of bankruptcy records.

Online access to bankruptcy records has also made it easier for researchers, journalists, and attorneys to access bankruptcy records for a variety of purposes, such as investigating bankruptcy fraudulent activity or conducting legal research.

Use of Bankruptcy Records

Use of Bankruptcy Records

Bankruptcy records can be used for a variety of purposes. Creditors and lenders may use bankruptcy records to evaluate the creditworthiness of potential borrowers. Employers may also use bankruptcy records to assess the financial responsibility of job applicants.

Researchers and journalists may use bankruptcy records to investigate fraudulent activity or to study bankruptcy trends. Attorneys may use bankruptcy records to prepare legal cases or to advise clients on bankruptcy-related matters.

Privacy Concerns

Although bankruptcy records are generally considered to be public records, there are privacy concerns associated with the release of personal information contained in bankruptcy records.

Bankruptcy records can contain sensitive personal information, such as social security numbers, home addresses, and financial information.

Protecting Personal Information in Bankruptcy Records

To protect personal information contained in bankruptcy records, bankruptcy courts may redact certain information or limit the amount of personal information that is released.

Bankruptcy courts may also require individuals who access bankruptcy records to sign confidentiality agreements or to provide identification to prevent abusive or harassing use of the records.

Balancing Public Access and Privacy Concerns

Balancing public access to bankruptcy records with privacy concerns is an ongoing challenge. On one hand, public access to bankruptcy records promotes transparency and accountability in the legal system.

On the other hand, the release of personal information contained in bankruptcy records can be damaging to individuals and businesses.

To address these concerns, bankruptcy courts may take steps to limit the release of personal information, such as redacting certain information or limiting the amount of personal information that is released.

Additionally, bankruptcy courts may require individuals who access bankruptcy records to provide identification or to sign confidentiality agreements to prevent abusive or harassing use of the records.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, bankruptcy records are generally considered to be public record. This means that anyone can access bankruptcy records, including creditors, lenders, employers, and members of the public.

Access to bankruptcy records is typically obtained through the PACER system, which is the official database for federal bankruptcy records.

Although bankruptcy records are public record, there are restrictions on who can access bankruptcy records and how the records can be used.

Personal information contained in bankruptcy records may be redacted or kept confidential to protect privacy concerns.

Overall, it is important to understand the public record status of bankruptcy filings before filing for bankruptcy.

While bankruptcy can provide relief from overwhelming debt, the consequences of bankruptcy can be long-lasting, including the potential impact on credit scores and the potential loss of assets.

By understanding the public record status of bankruptcy filings, individuals and businesses can make informed decisions about whether bankruptcy is the right choice for them.

Are Bankruptcies Public Record? FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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