Bankruptcy is a difficult and painful process. It can also be an embarrassment, and people may not want to admit to going through bankruptcy. If you need to know if someone you are dealing with is bankrupt, or has gone through bankruptcy in the past, you can check the records of bankruptcy courts to find out. The court records include both personal and business bankruptcies.
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Visit PACER.gov. The Public Access to Court Electronic Records website is the central public records system for federal courts. Bankruptcy cases almost always involve merchants in more than one state, so bankruptcy cases are handled in federal rather than state courts.
Click the "Register for a PACER account" link. Fill in the information to register for a PACER account. In addition to basic identification information, you need to enter credit card information. There is no charge to search PACER, but there is a fee for online retrieval of court documents from the system. Most of the registration process is handled online, but you'll receive your PACER password through the mail. Allow up to 10 days to complete the registration process.
Log-in to PACER once you have your user name and password by clicking the "Case Search Sign In" link.
Select the tab for "Bankruptcy" and set the "Region" to "All Courts" to conduct a national search.
Enter the name of the person you are searching in the search field, and click the "Search" button.
PACER will return a list of cases and case numbers that include the name you searched for. Click on individual cases to see additional details of the case. You can retrieve individual court documents that detail creditors and amounts owed.
Tips and warnings
- PACER is designed for legal professionals and it is not easy for a layperson to understand all the jargon used. Spend some time exploring the site, reading the FAQs and getting familiar with the overall system.
- Commercial credit reports, which are only available to financial and real estate professionals like bankers and landlords, also contain an individual's bankruptcy history.
- Remember that more than one person may have the name you searched for, so double-check the case details to make sure a bankruptcy case is for the person you are interested in knowing about.
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