In most cases, you begin your bankruptcy case by filing your bankruptcy petition with the United States Bankruptcy Court. But figuring out the location of the correct court to file your case is not always easy. There are 94 federal judicial districts in the United States -- each with a bankruptcy court. To make matters more complicated, many bankruptcy courts have more than one location. Below are the rules for where to file your bankruptcy case.
What the Law Requires
Under the law, you should file your bankruptcy case in the court located:
- where you have lived or maintained a permanent residence for the 180 days immediately before you file
- where your principal place of business is located or where your assets are for the 180 days before you file, or
- if you have recently moved, where you lived, maintained a permanent residence, maintained your principal place of business, or had assets for the greater portion of those 180 days.
Filing for Bankruptcy Close to Home
For most people, the correct place to file is close to home. Under the bankruptcy law, you can file in the district in which you have lived for the 180 days immediately before you file for bankruptcy. You can find your district and the nearest bankruptcy court location by entering your zip code into the U. S. Court Locator and selecting “bankruptcy court” as the court type. From there, you can click the link to the court’s website which provides you with information on the areas covered by that location.
In some areas of the country, the districts cover large areas and the bankruptcy court may not be close by. You can call your bankruptcy court to find out if they have a closer satellite location that accepts bankruptcy filings.
Keep in mind that you must file your bankruptcy in a federal court. So even if there is a state court close by, you cannot file your case there.
What if I Recently Moved?
If you moved within the last 180 days, the proper place to file your bankruptcy case is the location where you lived for the greater part of the 180 days. For example, if you lived in California for the last few years, but moved to Arizona two months ago, California is still the proper location for your bankruptcy because it was where you lived for 120 days of the 180 day period before the filing.
Other Options for the Location of Your Bankruptcy Filing
There are a few other options for determining your filing location.
Location of Assets
If you have been temporarily absent from your home during the 180 day period, the bankruptcy court location close to your home may still be an appropriate location for your bankruptcy filing. The law allows you to file your bankruptcy petition in the district where most of your assets are located.
This may also apply:
- if you are filing together with an estranged spouse (before the divorce), or
- if you are working temporarily out of state (or the country).
It can get tricky though and it could affect the exemptions you are entitled to claim (learn why bankruptcy exemptions are important), so it is best to get legal advice from an experienced bankruptcy attorney before you file.
Principal Place of Business
This is often an option for a business that is filing for bankruptcy. The business might be incorporated in one state and doing business in another (or more than one).
Filing in the Wrong Place
The bankruptcy court will not refuse to accept your bankruptcy papers if you are filing in the wrong location, but you can expect the matter to be brought before the a judge.
If the court finds that you filed in a location which is not appropriate and your creditors will be prejudiced or unfairly disadvantaged by the location, or if your case could be more easily administered in another location, the court can dismiss your case. The court can also transfer your case to the appropriate location. But whether the court dismisses or transfers your case is up to the court. This is true even if you request a transfer -- the court may still decide to dismiss your case.