Many clients ask me, “who will find out about my bankruptcy filing? Will my name be published in the local newspaper?” They are concerned that their friends, family, neighbors, or employer may learn of the bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy cases are a matter of public record. If someone really wants to find out if you have filed, they’ll be able to dig up the records. It’s not as simple as a Wisconsin CCAP search but the information is available. If your neighbor is anything like Mrs. Kravitz, she’ll find it.
The Bankruptcy Court will also mail notices of your case to certain people. All of your creditors & co-signers will receive notice because their rights will be affected by your filing.
Now for the good news: Bankruptcy cases are a matter of federal law, not state law. This means that the local county court does not participate in the proceedings. Any court hearings are held in the federal courthouse for your district (nearly all of my cases are handled at the federal courthouse in Madison, Wisconsin). The local newspapers that print the “Court News” every week, with notices of foreclosure sales, OWI violations, etc., typically don’t print notices relating to federal cases. They could do so, but it’s quite rare in Wisconsin.
• Unless you owe them money or co-signed with them, your family members, friends, neighbors, and employers will not be sent notice of your bankruptcy filing. They may find the information if they’re really interested and determined, but they most likely have their own problems to worry about.
• While local newspapers could print the names of consumer bankruptcy filers, they rarely do so in Wisconsin.
• If your neighbors do learn that you filed bankruptcy, relax. You may be the topic of their gossip for a couple of days, but someone else will take your spot as their target soon enough. The neighborhood gossips will forget about you and talk about that other neighbor’s divorce, job loss, wild party, marital problems, arrest, rehab stint, terrible cooking or housecleaning habits, noisy kids, drunken escapades . . . .