Even in Chapter 7 or 13 Bankruptcy, You Are Entitled to Personal Safety
Be Sure to Discuss Privacy & Safety Concerns with Your Bankruptcy Lawyer Before Filing!
Among other things that are publically disclosed with the filing of a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition are your physical and, if different, mailing addresses. While a non-involved person or entity would have to know how to log onto the Federal Court System's PACER electronic document filing system in order to view the information filed there, an involved person or entity will receive automatic notice of the filing of the bankruptcy by US mail. "Involved" or "interested" parties are your creditors, co-debtors, and people you've entered into contracts with, among others. Therefore, if, among those "interested" persons is someone who you would very much like NOT to know where you are currently living, particularly if you have a personal protection order out against some individual who may be a co-debtor or other interested party in your bankruptcy case quite accidentally, you have a legitimate concern for your continued privacy and perhaps even safety once a bankruptcy petition is filed. This can be easily remedied, but it is vital that you let your attorney know before you file that this is your concern.
How Do I Keep My Address Confidential in Bankruptcy?
The primary means of keeping your address confidential in bankruptcy is, naturally, not to list it on your bankruptcy petition, listing, instead, only a post-office box or other address to which court notices might be mailed. From there, local practice will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In the Eastern District of Michigan Federal Bankruptcy Court, private disclosure of the physical address to the bankruptcy Trustee assigned to the case and to the US Trustee (the division of the US Department of Justice that oversees the bankruptcy process in the US) are necessary, but our judges have not required, thus far, a court order so allowing or any other additional step. Attorneys elsewhere in the United States may use their own office address on the petition, or other means, and other courts may require formal orders so allowing. But, in order to leave your physical address off of the petition, you need to let your lawyer know before it is filed that this is the case. If you do so afterward, a motion to restrict public access to the document on PACER or other step may stop the further leak of the information, but the court's own process for noticing creditors and other parties of interest may already be underway at that point. If there is a threat of physical danger or violence, it is also possible to have a US Marshall or other police official in attendance at your 341 Meeting of Creditors and other necessary hearings if there is a chance that the feared individual may attend.
Keeping Your Address Confidential in Bankruptcy: The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that the Bankruptcy Court has every interest in protecting you if you have a real worry of danger and particularly so if a Michigan state court or magistrate has already signed a personal protection order. However, the Bankruptcy Code requires that you provide a "list of creditors," which can include co-debtors and other sources of personal obligation, with your bankruptcy petition. Co-debtors and other creditors are entitled to notice that they can no longer collect on a debt or that they may now be fully liable for a joint debt since you have remedied your liability with the bankruptcy filing. That does not mean that you give up your right to personal safety, however. The remedy to the problem lies not in the letter of the law in the Bankruptcy Code or in local court rules (generally) but in practicality and in retaining an attorney who will know how best to protect your privacy and person, who knows who to pick up the phone and call when a bankruptcy petition is filed with only a post office box rather than a physical address disclosed on it, to simply let the right people know what is going on. If you are a Michigan resident and would like to explore your options for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy with an experienced Michigan bankruptcy attorney, please contact us at (866) 674-2317 or click the button below to schedule a free, initial consultation.
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