There are a number of reasons why you might want to verify if someone you know has filed for bankruptcy. If they owe you money, your ability to recover that debt could be affected. If you are a going to sue someone, a bankruptcy filing on their behalf could deter you from filing a lawsuit.
While bankruptcy filers are required to notify all interested parties of their bankruptcy filing, the reality is those notifications are not always made. Thankfully, you have multiple options for finding out if someone has filed for bankruptcy.
3 Ways to Run a Bankruptcy Search
The process of identifying a bankruptcy filing and researching the case used to be a hassle. It involved a deep understanding of the court system and usually required a trip to the courthouse. In the digital age, however, most of your research regarding a bankruptcy filing can be done online. Here are three methods you can use to find a bankruptcy filing.
1. Use an Online Bankruptcy Name Search
The most convenient method for determining if someone you know has filed for bankruptcy protection is by using an online bankruptcy name search service like CheckThem.
For a low monthly fee, you can check on potential bankruptcy filings for anyone you know.
This service is fast and extremely accurate. To get started, you will only need the first name, last name, and state of residence for the person you are searching for. That said, you may need additional information to confirm you have the right person. This is especially true if the name you are searching for is common.
Thankfully, validating a person’s identity is often simple. The more biographical information you know about the person, such as age, date of birth, address, or even employment history, the easier it will be to determine if you have the right person.
The most convenient part of this service is that the search is nationwide. Some states have multiple bankruptcy courts, and filers do not always file in the district in which they live. With a checkthem.com background check, you can search nationwide for bankruptcy filings in seconds.
2. Search Court Records Online
Another option for searching for bankruptcy filings online is through the official online database known as Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER. This government-operated service allows you to search the court records of any federal court case filed anywhere in the country. PACER provides access to the individual pleadings in a bankruptcy case, so you can see for yourself if you are included in their bankruptcy petition or if their case is at risk of being dismissed by the United States Trustee.
There are some downsides to PACER, however. Once you register for an account, the process for accessing these records can be confusing. The interface is dated, making these searches fairly unintuitive. What’s more, the ability to search by a debtor’s name is much more challenging than with an online bankruptcy name search, as PACER does not provide any method to verify you have the right debtor unless you already know the bankruptcy case number. PACER also charges users by the page, so acquiring pleadings can be costly in large cases.
3. Research at the Courthouse
If you are not tech-savvy or simply do not feel like researching bankruptcy online, you can search for bankruptcy filing records at the relevant federal courthouse. There are some obvious problems with this method; the first being that each courthouse may only have the records for the district it sits in. Your research may not pick up a filing in another district or state. And like with PACER, you may be on the hook for a per-page fee if you want to print any records.
Frequently Asked Questions about Bankruptcy Name Searches
Bankruptcy name searches are easy, but are they worth it? We discuss that and other frequently asked questions regarding bankruptcy filings below.
Why search a bankruptcy filing?
Anyone interested in whether or not a relative, acquaintance, or potential business partner has filed for bankruptcy has their own reasons. However, active bankruptcy can have a major impact on some decisions in your life, including:
* When you are sizing up a potential business partner or investor
* When you are considering giving someone a loan
* When you need to know about the financial health of a business
* When you are reviewing a property rental application
What types of bankruptcy are commonly filed by individuals?
During your research, you are likely to come across two different types of bankruptcy filings: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. There are other types of bankruptcies, but they are more common for companies than individuals.
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is also known as liquidation bankruptcy. These cases are designed for people with few assets and are typically resolved in a matter of months. Most unsecured creditors have their debts wiped out in Chapter 7, so proceed with caution if you determine the person you are searching for has filed for Chapter 7 recently or in the past.
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is intended for people who have assets, but who are overwhelmed by their debts. These types of bankruptcies typically take five years to resolve and involve the debtors paying back some of their creditors over the five-year period. If you are a creditor to the person you are searching for and you learn they have a Chapter 13 filing they did not notify you of, you will need to take steps to get involved in the case to ensure you are not left out.
What information about the debtor would be helpful in the search?
When using an online bankruptcy name search, you can begin the process with nothing more than the name and state of the person you are searching for. But to simplify the process of confirming you have found the right person, you may benefit from having some or all of the following information on hand.
* County of residence
* Social Security number
* Date of birth
* Previous known addresses
* Prior employment history
If you do not have any of the documentation previously discussed available, you can still verify you have the right person by spending a little more time with your research.