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Going through bankruptcy is tough. People often have to sell treasured assets. There’s a mountain of paperwork to get through. And to top it off, it’s an emotional, social nightmare. Bankruptcy records are available to the public and remain on a credit file for up to 10 years. Many individuals don’t want to discuss their financial hardships for lawyers — even to those representing them in court. Of course, if they’re the opposition, it’s up to you to find those records, too.
For those who’ve had one and apply for a mortgage, personal loan, car finance, or small business loan — the creditor will ask for a copy of your bankruptcy records. Your files may also be required when you apply to rent a home or apply for a job.
It’s wise to always keep a copy of official bankruptcy records. For lawyers, it’s always wise to see if both clients and opposition have this type of record (among others). The discharge document is particularly useful to show that the debt has been cleared from the case.
If you’re looking to get hold of your own, another individual’s, or a company’s bankruptcy paperwork, here are three methods of searching public records.
3 ways to obtain bankruptcy records
1. Individual court case lookup
One of the most common methods used by individuals is the PACER system. PACER, which stands for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, is an online system that allows you to search the entire US for a debtor. Each file contains the debtor’s name, court case number, and jurisdiction where the case was filed.
You can register for PACER online by visiting their website, where you’ll find the current fee for downloading court documents.
Pacer terminals can also be found at courthouses. You can access and print your records (for a fee) by visiting the Clerk’s Office of the courthouse where the case was filed.
If you don’t have printing facilities and require a hardcopy of your bankruptcy paperwork, you can also email or write to the state court where the case was filed. There will be a cost for printing and postage, which you will need to pay to the courthouse.
When contacting the court, be sure to include:
- Your name.
- Casefile or name of the debtor.
- A description or document number of the files you require.
2. Paying a one-time service fee
You can also obtain bankruptcy records via an online retrieval service. You’ll receive a copy of all records in PDF format via email and a hardcopy by mail.
The complete bankruptcy file – which contains:
- Discharge documents.
- Creditors holding claims.
- Notices of any exempt property.
- And the final decree.
Typically the cost is around $50 to download. Alternatively, you can just download discharge documents. These papers prove the case has ended and any of the debt has been discharged. This documentation is found (typically) for around half the price. Whether you need the full bankruptcy file or just the discharge documents will depend on what you require the documents for.
For individuals, it’s often to apply for a small loan (such as personal or car loans). Or, as part of the vetting process when renting a property or applying for a job, then the discharge documents alone are usually sufficient. Online bankruptcy retrieval services make it incredibly easy for individuals to obtain their files.
This option isn’t really for law firms and businesses needing regular records. Lawyers, small firms, and businesses wanting regular lookups of these records will find it both time-consuming and expensive (depending on the number of records needed). If you’re a business that requires multiple lookups — it’s just inefficient and costly.
3. Use Tracers
Suppose you require multiple records, PACERS, and retrieval services aren’t a practical solution. You must look up each case individually, which is a time-consuming and expensive exercise. This is where specialized software, such as Tracers, can be extremely beneficial to your business.
Tracers is a legal research tool that allows legal professionals and others to search online court documents (including bankruptcy records).
There are five main benefits of using Tracers:
- Easy – our search tool makes it incredibly easy to find records. You can search via all identifiable information that’s held on a bankruptcy file, such as personal names, business names, Social Security numbers, address, the date and location of filing, and the bankruptcy chapter.
- Fast – don’t waste time filtering through thousands of search results manually. Tracers search millions of records by multiple search criteria and return the results instantly.
- Comprehensive – we have a wide range of data sources, including state, federal, county, and municipal records. If the records exist, our search facilities will find them.
- Affordable – for one low-cost fee, you can access as many bankruptcy records (or other court documents) as you require.
- Reliable – You can rely on our search functions and a huge database of court documents to always deliver accurate results for all your vetting needs.
Tracers presents you with all the information you need to make an informed decision on a case, including:
- Complete Bankruptcy Records – the complete court records including case number, date, names of debtors, state the bankruptcy was filed in, bankruptcy type, docket details, dispositions, evidence of claims, repayment plans, supporting documents, and a list of assets and liabilities.
- Liens – get up to date information on any liens (property, personal, vehicle, tax), including lien type, status, and the court orders that activated them.
- Legal Judgements – all decisions made by a court of law in relation to the case can be found in the legal judgments section. The timeline and judgment status will also be shown.
- Criminal Records – receive detailed information on related illegal activity, including misdemeanors, convictions, fraud, embezzlement charges, criminal driving offenses, and incarcerations.
Tracers will be able to find the bankruptcy records for all entities, including:
- Personal Bankruptcy – individuals and small businesses can enter chapter 7 bankruptcy. This is “traditional bankruptcy,” where a person’s assets will be sold to repay as much of the debt as possible. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is means-tested, and a court will decide whether to wipe all debts (except for state taxes and student loans) or make a repayment plan. The record of bankruptcy will stay on a person’s credit report for a minimum of seven years.
- Business Bankruptcy – a company that can no longer meet its obligations can file for two types of bankruptcy; Chapter 7 is where the company goes into liquidation, and chapter 11 is where a repayment plan is set up.
Equip your business with the right tool for the job
Although there are several methods of obtaining bankruptcy reports, many of them are slow and inefficient. With archaic search functions and limited data, they don’t provide your business with the information required to make an informed decision quickly.
If you’re a law firm, property management company, car retailer, or other business that needs to search for bankruptcy records regularly, Tracers offers an affordable and complete solution.
Your company can continue to do business safely in the knowledge that you’ve carried out thorough due diligence on potential customers.