Where Do I File My Bankruptcy Papers?

Here's how to figure out the location of the correct court for your bankruptcy filing.

Updated By , Attorney

Most bankruptcy cases begin when you file bankruptcy paperwork with the United States Bankruptcy Court. But with 94 federal jurisdictions—each with a bankruptcy court— it isn't always easy to figure out where to start. Matters might be more complicated if you've moved recently or you own business assets. This article will help you determine where you should file your bankruptcy case.

Bankruptcy Filing Rules

Two things determine where you should file: where you've lived recently and where your business assets are located. Specifically, you'll file in the bankruptcy 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.

The general idea is that the court wants it to be simple for the bankruptcy trustee—the person selected to administer your case—to examine and, if necessary, to sell your assets in a Chapter 7 case without incurring unnecessary expenses.

Finding the Bankruptcy Court

You can find your district and the nearest bankruptcy court location by entering your city and state, or 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 to find information on the areas covered by that location.

For instance, entering "Medford, OR" brings up the Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon, and the Congress Center in Portland Oregon. Clicking on the "Oregon Bankruptcy Court" link under each court's address will take you to the court's website.

(For more information, see Bankruptcy Information for Your State.)

Filing for Bankruptcy Close to Home

For most people, the correct filing place is close to home—the federal district in which you have lived for the 180 days immediately before filing (not your local state court). However, some districts cover large areas so the bankruptcy court might not be as close to your home as you'd like.

Most large districts have multiple locations—some of which accept bankruptcy filings, but not all. You can call your bankruptcy court or visit the court's website using the instructions in "Finding the Bankruptcy Court" above, to find a closer satellite location.

Where to File If You Moved Recently

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.

What Paperwork Do I Need to File?

The primary document—the cover page, so to speak—is called the petition. On the petition, the debtor lists preliminary information, such as the debtor's name, address, and the type of bankruptcy chapter that the debtor filed. The debtor must file a number of other documents with the petition. Most financial information gets listed on bankruptcy schedules.

Each schedule asks the filer to provide details about a particular category of information, such as property, debts, income, and expenses. The schedules include:

  • Schedule A/B: Property
  • Schedule C: The Property You Claim as Exempt
  • Schedule D: Creditors Who Hold Claims Secured By Property
  • Schedule E/F: Creditors Who Have Unsecured Claims
  • Schedule G: Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases
  • Schedule H: Your Codebtors
  • Schedule I: Your Income
  • Schedule J: Your Expenses

You'll need to prepare other forms, too—as well as a credit counseling completion certificate. On the Your Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy form, you'll disclose your prior earnings and property transactions. The Statement of Intention for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7 form tells the court (and your creditors) what you intend to do with items that you're leasing (such as equipment) or property securing a loan. For instance, if you're paying for a car, you'll explain whether you intend to return it or keep it and continue paying on the loan or lease. For details about the different types of paperwork needed, read Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.

Other Location Options

Even though most people file close to home, you might have other options. Here are a few more rules that you can use when 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 might 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 might also apply:

  • if you're filing together with an estranged spouse (before the divorce), or
  • if you're working out of state (or the country) temporarily.

It can get tricky though because it could affect the exemptions you're 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

A business might be incorporated in one state and doing business in another (or more than one). When there's a question, the principal place of business will be the proper filing place.

Filing in the Wrong Place

The bankruptcy court won't refuse to accept your bankruptcy papers if you are filing in the wrong location, but you can expect the trustee to bring the matter before the judge. If the court finds the current location will cause your creditors to be prejudiced or unfairly disadvantaged, or if the trustee could better administer your case in another jurisdiction, the court has the option of dismissing or transferring your case.

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