Over the last 12 years of practicing bankruptcy law, I have found that there is one issue many people are concerned with, which often keeps them from filing bankruptcy. Due to this “fear”, several people end up not filing and instead find themselves in much worse trouble in the future. I’ve even met people who would rather face garnishment and foreclosure than have to suffer what they feel is the “indignity” of bankruptcy. It seems that many people are under the impression that their bankruptcy will appear in the paper the day after they file it, allowing all their friends to see it, having to suffer the pain and embarrassment that would go along with it. Let me calm your fears.
Although bankruptcy is public record, very few people will ever find out about it unless they go looking. Creditors will find out of course, because they receive written notice. The trustee who handles your case will know. Obviously, anyone else present at your hearing will know, and the credit bureaus will know, but there really isn’t any reason anyone else would ever find out. The Daily Oklahoman doesn’t have time to worry about such things. At one point, the Journal Record published notices of bankruptcy throughout the state (as it is present in Oklahoma City and Tulsa), but even they no longer have any interest in publishing them. It requires a lot of work. Someone would have to go online to the federal court database every day to keep track of bankruptcies, since they are all filed electronically now. It’s just too much trouble. Even if the Journal Record did still publish notices of bankruptcy, how many people do you know who read the Journal Record? Not many, and most who do are lawyers and people involved in legal or business matters. Notices of probate hearings are filed there. Benign notices. Even most attorneys I know don’t read it. My point is that unless someone is looking, or has reason to look, the odds of any of your friends ever finding out you filed bankruptcy are extremely low. I realize there is a social “stigma” that comes with filing, and I understand the concern, but it’s unfounded. Don’t let fear of people finding out keep you from getting yourself out of financial problems and receiving your “fresh start” you are entitled to.