Can I file bankruptcy without my boss knowing? Will my family find out if I file for bankruptcy protection? What will my neighbors think if I file for bankruptcy?

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Eeeeeek! If I had a dollar* for every instance in which a potential bankruptcy debtor expressed fear over their friends and family learning of their bankruptcy, I would be a rich man. While it is true that bankruptcy is a matter of public record, most bankruptcy cases are not making the nightly news. Therefore, your secret just may be safe.

*I have decided that Lincoln’s head is no longer valuable enough to use in these cliches. The above has happened a lot, I am not lying. However, if I am counting in pennies I would only have a few hundred bucks, tops. That’s inflation for you! 

Your Bankruptcy Case Can Be Accessed Through PACER:

Yep, I am sorry to say it, but your friends and family can simply hop on PACER for all the juicy details of your recent bankruptcy filing. You know PACER, that easily-navigated government database which houses electronic court records. Come on, I am sure you have submitted the request form and applied for a username and password. All the cool kids are doing it!

Yes, I am being facetious – or trying to, at least. PACER is the government database that houses electronic records pertaining to bankruptcy court (as well as district and appellate court) cases. However, I imagine that most individuals working outside of the legal profession have not a clue what PACER is. Case in point? Last time we spoke, I decided to test this theory by asking my mom what she thought of PACER. The conversation quickly turned to horses and professional sports.

Your Creditor’s Will Receive Notice of Your Bankruptcy Case:

You may not know this, but part of the behind the scenes procedure of filing for bankruptcy includes providing notice of the case to all of your creditors. When you hire a bankruptcy attorney, it is their job to provide the court with an accurate list of your creditor. The court then sends notice to your creditors that a bankruptcy case has been filed.

Normally, bankruptcy debtors aren’t too upset knowing that Benny of the CitiBank mail room has learned of their case. However, when creditors are frieds or family members, the reaction can be different. In this case, you need to take a step back and consider why you are filing for bankruptcy in the first place. If your intent is to seek relief from your debts as provided by the bankruptcy code, your creditors will need to know the status of your debt. 

Another important point to understand is that all creditors and lenders are entitled to notice by the bankruptcy court. But what if you are planning to keep your home or car? It doesn’t matter, your lender will receive notice. And no, you cannot simply leave a debt out of your bankruptcy case to prevent the creditor from receiving notice. All creditors must receive equal treatment, as is provided by the bankruptcy code.

On a final note, fear of another’s opinion is really not a plausible reason to avoid filing for bankruptcy protection. In today’s economic climate, people are struggling. The best thing that you can do for both yourself and your local economy is solve your financial hardships in the most efficient way possible.

 Because he is both eloquent and ruggedly handsome in film, I decided this point could be best made by Mr. Matt Damon. Though slightly off-topic, you are smart… I am sure you can deduce the point I am trying to make. (In case you haven’t yet had your morning Joe: times are tough right now. Everyone is struggling. There is no place for embarrassment in solving financial problems. Etcetera. Etcetera)