Declaring Bankruptcy: Can I Keep My Bankruptcy Private?
Completely confidential bankruptcy is not possible. Bankruptcy documents and records are a matter of public record. However, just because the records are technically public does not mean that everyone you know or work with will know about your financial situation. If you are declaring bankruptcy, you can do some things to protect yourself, as well. The first thing to do is to consult with a lawyer familiar with Kansas courts and customs. A qualified lawyer who knows bankruptcy laws and understands how things play in the Kansas area will be able to give you the best personalized advice on the extent to which you can keep things confidential. Every case is different, so don't try to get through bankruptcy without legal help. Your lawyer in Johnson County, Kansas will be able to give you even more details on some of these important things to know:
Kansas Filing Districts
There are three U.S. Bankruptcy Courts in Kansas, located in Kansas City, Wichita, and Topeka. You are free to file in any of these three courts. The choice is yours, and the choice you make may help you keep your situation more private. By choosing to file in the area farthest from where you live and work, for example, you may minimize the chance that people you know well will find out about your situation. However, if you're planning on taking a new job or moving soon, you will want to take this into consideration as you choose your filing district.
Some newspapers in Kansas still publish the names of people who are filing for bankruptcy. While this may horrify you at first, remember that your name will not appear on the front page. It's highly unlikely the average person will run across your name unless they're actively looking for it. And while newspaper policies are subject to change at any time, for the moment, only a few papers actively print all names of people filing for bankruptcy in the area. The Wichita Eagle-Beacon publishes a list of everyone who files in the Witchita division of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Kansas. The Kansas City Star, meanwhile, only publishes names of those filing in Kansas City if the name is well-known. The Topeka Capital-Journal no longer publishes the names of those who file in Topeka. However, if you are local to the areas served by the Lawrence Journal-World, the Salina Journal, or the Johnson County Sun, you should know that these papers do print a list of all local residents who file for bankruptcy. There may be other journals and papers that print these names, and, as stated, newspapers may choose to change their policies at any time, so talk with your lawyer to learn the best choice for protecting your privacy.
Entities Who Are Automatically Notified of Your Bankruptcy
There are certain entities or people who will be automatically notified if you file for bankruptcy. If you're considering filing for bankruptcy and are worried about privacy, be sure to talk to your lawyer about the situation before you file.
Anyone you own money to will be notified as soon as you file. This is done to protect you: once you file, you get an automatic stay, which stops creditor attempts to collect the debt. The information your creditors receive will include your mailing address, name, and social security number, along with other personal information. In most cases, however, creditors have this information already.
The three credit bureaus, Experian, Transunion, and Equifax, will be updated with your bankruptcy information. This information allows them to keep your credit report accurate, and it will also include personal information. Again, the credit bureaus already have most of this information, so typically this should not be cause for concern. A bankruptcy will, however, lower your credit score, and the effect may be severe. Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for a decade. Chapter 13 bankruptcy remains on your credit report for seven years. This means that any potential lenders will see the bankruptcy, making it much less likely that a lender will choose to approve your loan. Even if you have fully discharged your debt, lenders may still be reluctant to approve your loan if they see a history of bankruptcy.
The good news is that it's very unlikely your current employer will find out about your bankruptcy. Most employers are not automatically notified if one of their employees files for bankruptcy. There are a few cases where an employer will be notified, however:
1. If You Stop a Wage Garnishment
If one of your creditors has successfully filed suit against you to have your wages garnished, your employer will be aware of this because the money must be taken directly from your paycheck. If this has happened to you, filing for bankruptcy will stop the wage garnishment: however, it will also mean your employer finds out about the bankruptcy.
2. If Your Employer Is a Creditor
If your employer is one of your creditors, they will be notified automatically along with all other creditors when you file.
3. If You File a Certain Type of Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Some Chapter 13 Bankruptcy cases involve payroll deduction for automatic payment of your debt. If you arrange this type of bankruptcy plan, your employer will know about your bankruptcy.
Guarding Against Identity Theft and Other Issues
During bankruptcy, your personal information will be going out, and that's always a time to worry about identity theft. You may have other personal reasons to want to keep things private and ensure certain people can't get access to details like your address and phone number. This can be especially concerning for anyone who has been a victim of domestic abuse or is under some other type of threat. Your lawyer can help you get an order of protection to seal publically-available information in certain circumstances. Your lawyer can also help you keep your home address confidential and may advise you to use a post office box as your mailing address when you file. While this is a smart move, some entities will still have access to your home address, such as the post office where you have your PO box and the bankruptcy trustee appointed by the court. In general, this should not be a security concern, however, it's always wise to talk with your lawyer if you have any worries at all. The more you share with your lawyer about your situation, the easier it will be to craft a plan that allows you to take advantage of the benefits of bankruptcy while avoiding as many of the downsides as possible.
Reach Out to a Johnson City, Kansas Lawyer Today
Bankruptcy is a stressful time, but a qualified financial attorney can help you decide if bankruptcy is right for you and successfully navigate the system and any potential privacy issues if it is. Contact us at Stockton & Stern, LLC today to get peace of mind and take the first step towards getting your financial future back on track.