Who Will Find Out I've Filed Bankruptcy?

A bankruptcy is a public record, but tends to stay fairly private.

If you're thinking about filing bankruptcy, you might feel embarrassed. You probably shouldn't, because you're making use of a valid legal option to deal with debts and trying to improve your life.  But still, most of us don't want to broadcast our financial troubles to the world.

If you file bankruptcy, by law you must list every person you owe money to. They will be mailed a notice of your filing. You must also list anyone you are jointly liable on a debt with (for example, a co-signer). They will be mailed notice.  And if you owe child support, the parent receiving the support will get notice.  Employers don't get notice, ex-spouses don't get notice, neighbors and friends don't get notice. 

A bankruptcy is a public record, just like every other filing made in federal court.  If someone wanted to find out if you filed, they could by looking at the database of federal court filings called PACER.  You have to have a (free) account to do so, so that likely deters someone who is just snooping.

Most newspapers no longer publish lists of persons filing bankruptcy. The Telegraph Herald in Dubuque does not publish a list, and I'm not aware of any Wisconsin newspapers that publish names.  The Cedar Rapids Gazette has traditionally published lists of persons filing bankruptcy in the Northern District of Iowa. The Quad Cities Times has done the same for people filing bankruptcy in the southern half of the state. Keep in mind, though, that newspapers aren't looking to waste space on this. Think small print, legal notices that most people would have a hard time reading. 

If you're thinking about bankruptcy, there are usually far more embarassing consequences if you do nothing--getting you car repossessed, going into foreclosure, debt collection calls--than having your name in the legal notices.