Are Bankruptcy Records Public Information in Indiana?
According to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), records generated and maintained by federal agencies are public records unless such records are sealed or exempted from public inspection by other laws. Federal laws guide the bankruptcy process, and federal courts hear bankruptcy cases; this means that bankruptcy records are federal agency records. Since bankruptcy records do not fall under any FOIA exemptions, bankruptcy records are public unless the court seals such records. Interested parties may request and access public bankruptcy records. Bankruptcy reflects on debtors’ credit scores, and credit reporting agencies collect bankruptcy information. Credit reporting agencies may also make bankruptcy information available to the public.
Record seekers may also obtain bankruptcy records from third-party websites. These non-governmental websites often come with tools that help simplify the search for single or multiple records. However, record availability on third-party sites tends to vary because they’re independent of government sources. To obtain bankruptcy case information using third-party sites, record seekers may need to provide:
- A complete name of the debtor involved in the record
- A bankruptcy case number
What is a Bankruptcy in Indiana?
Bankruptcy is a federal process that allows debtors to find relief from debt through liquidation or reorganization. Bankruptcy also helps creditors to recover debts in an orderly manner. Since bankruptcy is a federal process, Indiana courts cannot hear bankruptcy cases. Only federal courts hear bankruptcy cases. The federal bankruptcy courts in Indiana are:
- United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Indiana with offices in Fort Wayne, South Bend, Lafayette, and Hammond.
- United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana with locations in Indianapolis, Evansville, New Albany, and Terre Haute
Each court location has county assignments; therefore, petitioning parties must file bankruptcy cases on the site or division assigned to the petitioner’s county. Bankruptcy courts manage records that include petitions, lists, statements, schedules, forms, and other documents generated in filing or hearing a bankruptcy case.
What Do Indiana Bankruptcy Records Contain?
A requester can expect to find the debtor’s name, address, other identifying information, and detailed financial records on receiving a bankruptcy record. Requesters can also expect to find information about creditors, including addresses and the amount the debtor owes each creditor. Additionally, requesting parties may find supplementing forms and other information relating to a bankruptcy case, including income or employment information, test results, proof of credit counseling and debtor education courses completion, and proof of claim. Depending on the type of bankruptcy case a debtor files, the debtor can expect to fill different forms. Other information that a requester can expect to find in a bankruptcy record include:
- Case number
- Filing date
- Name of appointed trustee
- Name of the assigned judge
- Case status
- Bankruptcy discharge
How to Get Indiana Bankruptcy Records
Interested parties may visit the US Bankruptcy Clerk’s office and search for the case number and bankruptcy records using the public access terminals that the court provides. Access to the public terminals and the terminals’ records is unrestricted. However, requesting parties will pay $0.10 per page to print copies of the documents. Alternatively, requesting parties may submit written requests to the Bankruptcy Clerk’s office.
For requesting parties who know the case number and the specific required record, the party only needs to pay a $0.50 per page photocopy fee. Requesting parties who do not know the document number or number of pages required must pay a $31 search fee to find the document number and number of pages. Then, the requesting party will pay the $0.50 photocopy fee. An additional $11 applies for certified copies. All written records requests must include the requesting party’s name, phone number, address, and a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
Requesting parties may also obtain court records online through the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system for records filed before 2005. To obtain records filed earlier than 2005, requesting parties must contact the US Bankruptcy Clerk in the jurisdiction where a debtor filed the case.
The Voice Case Information System (VCIS) is a 24-hour telephone service that allows requesting parties access to some bankruptcy information. Interested parties may access the VCIS by dialing (866) 222-8029 and following the voice prompts.
Where to Conduct a Free Bankruptcy Case Search in Indiana
Although conducting a bankruptcy case search in the relevant County Clerk’s office may incur standardized fees, it can be obtained for free through the following methods:
- Online: Eligible individuals can access bankruptcy cases for free via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) tool. This tool is free for:
- Registered individuals' total usage is $30 or less in a quarter.
- Individuals who want to view bankruptcy fees at the Federal Courthouse
- Individuals or groups who have been granted fee exemptions by the court
- Case parties and attorneys can get free electronic copies of bankruptcy cases
- Individuals requesting court opinions can get copies for free
- By phone: A requester can use the Voice Case Information System (VCIS) to conduct a free bankruptcy case search. The VCIS is linked to the electronic case file system of the Bankruptcy Court and is accessible from any touch-tone telephone. Members of the public can make a free call to (866) 222-8029.
- In-person: Interested persons can visit the Clerk’s office and use the public access computers to view bankruptcy documents for free.
How Do I Find Out if My Bankruptcy Case is Closed in Indiana?
To get updates about bankruptcy cases, interested parties may contact the US Bankruptcy Clerk in the jurisdiction where a debtor or the requesting party filed the bankruptcy case. Bankruptcy case status information is available instantly online through PACER. Users must sign up for accounts to use the system, and $0.10 applies to every search page. VCIS also provides bankruptcy case information through its touch-tone telephone access. Interested parties may use the VCIS at no cost.
Can a Bankruptcy Be Expunged in Indiana?
It is impossible to expunge bankruptcy records in Indiana as the federal laws that guide the process do not clearly or explicitly provide for expungement. However, interested parties may file a motion to have a bankruptcy record sealed. Expungement is the complete erasure of the records, while sealing restricts access to bankruptcy records. If a record is sealed, only authorized persons, including certain court officials and parties named on the case, may access it. Unsealed records appear on credit histories for up to ten (10) years, while such records may stay indefinitely on a person’s court records.
Understanding Bankruptcy in Indiana
Bankruptcy is a legal procedure - authorized by U.S. Code and governed by federal rules - which involves individuals, businesses, and other entities that are in financial distress and unable to pay their creditors. Filed in a federal court, this proceeding grants relief to insolvent parties by providing options for systematic debt repayment, liquidation, or discharge from certain liabilities. In line with this, the State of Indiana grants legal assistance for debtors to deal with their debt problems when a petition is filed at any of the two U.S. Bankruptcy Courts located in the state:
- U.S. Bankruptcy Court Northern District of Indiana
- U.S. Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Indiana
Interested parties should file the petition at the court with jurisdiction in the area where the debtor lives or where most of the assets or the primary place of business is located. However, persons should note that bankruptcy records are public in Indiana, and most filed documents and details of the proceeding shall be available to the public.
What is the Downside of Filing for Bankruptcy in Indiana?
Like most court records, bankruptcy records are generally public. As a result, the information contained can be accessed by credit reporting agencies, landlords, employers, and other persons interested in the case. Credit reporting agencies track and collect information concerning bankruptcy through court records and this may include the petitions, filed documents, and schedules.
As per the Fair Credit Reporting Act, these details shall be available on the debtor’s credit report for seven to ten years and may result in reduced credit scores. However, this is determined by the debtor's original score. For instance, high credit scores may fall by 200 to 240 points, while average scores may reduce by 130 to 150 points. Conversely, low credit scores may increase by up to 50 points.
As a consequence of the credit report, debtors may lose their credit cards or face difficulties in getting loans and mortgages, especially ones with low interest rates. Furthermore, filing bankruptcy may lead to frozen accounts, strict budgets, loss of business control, loss of assets, restrictions from managerial job roles, and overall stress from the bankruptcy process.
Note: Chapter 13 bankruptcy lasts seven years on a credit report, while Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 can last up to 10 years.
What is Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Indiana?
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a chapter of the Bankruptcy Code that provides a means of debt settlement through reorganization. Reorganization is a restructuring process that involves arranging assets and debts and proposing a plan for settling debts while managing finances and business operations. This option is available to individuals, partnerships, and corporations who wish to avoid liquidation and keep the business running. Persons who do not qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may also file this type of bankruptcy.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy often allows for downsizing, asset disbursement, reducing interest rates, writing down asset value, and extending payment terms. However, the process is long, complicated and costly, and requires careful evaluation and execution. From taking a pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course to filing the plan to the confirmation hearing, the process alone may take six to twelve months. Meanwhile, implementing the plan usually takes three to five years.
Note that this type of bankruptcy can be file voluntarily by the debtor or involuntarily by three or more creditors. Before filing, the debtor must take a credit counseling course within 180 days of submitting the petition. Once filed, there shall be an Automatic Stay Order sent to creditors to stop all debt-collection activities like repossession, foreclosures, and lawsuits. Debtors then have to file a reorganization plan within a four-month exclusivity period, but this may be extended to 18 months if a good-faith effort is demonstrated. The debtor must also file a disclosure statement informing creditors of the current financial condition and the plan for restructuring.
Next, the court shall send copies of the reorganization plan and approved disclosure statement to interest holders and creditors who will review and vote on it. After this, there shall be a confirmation hearing which shall make the plan effective upon confirmation. The debtor-in-possession or bankruptcy trustee shall then implement the plan until the plan has been consummated and the case closed.
Records of Chapter 11 bankruptcy may include copies of the petition, certificates, final report, and other filed documents. These will contain the debtor's name, filing details, list of debts and creditors, assigned trustee's details, and case disposition. However, the court shall not disclose all digits of a Social Security Number, redact children's names, and restrict other information deemed sensitive. The bankruptcy record shall be publicly available unless sealed or expunged under extenuating circumstances.
What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Indiana?
As per the Bankruptcy Code, Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Indiana is a process that helps insolvent parties pay financial obligations through liquidation. Liquidation is the process of selling and distributing nonexempt assets for the benefit of the creditors. When businesses file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the company will cease to exist after liquidation. Individuals may also lose real estate (excluding primary residence) and other assets when they file bankruptcy under this chapter.
However, debtors who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy can get rid of some unsecured debts. Typically, the process is less complicated and can be completed within five months. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy process involves:
- Taking a credit counseling course alone or as a group within 180 before filing
- Filing a bankruptcy petition either voluntarily or involuntary (through creditors)
- Filing other required documents disclosing assets, liabilities, current income and expenditures, and other requested information
- Automatic Stay Order distributed by the court
- Attending the meeting of the creditors or 341 hearing and answering the trustee’s and creditors’ questions about the provided documents
- Attending another hearing if the trustee needs further examination
- The trustee selling nonexempt assets and distributing proceeds to creditors
- Signing and filing a reaffirmation agreement if required
- Completing a financial management class
- Discharge order issued by the court
- Closing the case
However, individuals should note that not all debts are discharged under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, including:
- Certain student loans
- Child support
- Criminal fines
- Certain taxes
Furthermore, the bankruptcy court may revoke a discharge order if the discharge was obtained through the debtor's fraudulent actions, failure to disclose assets, and making a material misstatement. This may also lead to criminal charges for committing perjury. Information on the bankruptcy process shall be available in credit reports for 10 years and in court records until sealed or expunged. However, this does not happen often.
Do I Qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Indiana?
Debtors may qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Indiana if they passed the means test and had not filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the last seven years. A means test is an assessment done to prevent high-income earners who can file Chapter 13 bankruptcy from filing under Chapter 7. Hence, if the debtor falls within Chapter 13 secured and unsecured debt limits and has a monthly income high enough to get rid of debts under Chapter 13, this test shall deem the debtor unable to file under Chapter 7.
The means test is calculated with the debtor’s income, household size, and expenses. In Indiana, if the debtor’s annual income is above the state’s median income – especially after subtracting expenses - the debtor does not qualify. Hence, an individual who filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy between November 2020 and March 2021 may qualify for this type of bankruptcy if the annual income is less than $51,689 for a one-member household.
What is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Indiana?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a legal procedure available to wage earners whose secured debts do not exceed $419,275, and unsecured debts do not exceed $1,257,850 (as of April 1, 2019). This procedure deals with reorganization and a monthly repayment of debts, usually within three to five years. Similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the debtor does not have to lose assets and shall propose a repayment plan to settle debts in the long term. However, this option is only available to individuals, spouses, self-employed persons, and sole proprietors who want relief from debts that the debtor is personally liable for.
Individuals may file bankruptcy under Chapter 13 if:
- Four years have passed since discharging a previously filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy
- Interested persons completed a credit counseling class within 180 days before filing the petition
- The debtor has proof of state/federal income tax returns filed in the least four years
- The debtor did not have a petition dismissed in the last 180 days because of a court order violation or request for case dismissal
Excluding the means test, the repayment plan, and the monthly payment, the process involved in filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is similar to that of Chapter 7. Bankruptcy records shall contain information on the filing, debtor's name, debts and liabilities, and copies of filed documents, certificates, petitions, and discharge. In most cases, these details are public and cannot be expunged.
What is the Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Indiana?
Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy have notable differences in terms of eligibility, structure, and consequences. Persons who do not know which to choose between these two options may consider the following contrary features:
- Chapter 7 is a liquidation process, while Chapter 13 is focused on repayment plans. Hence, debtors may lose assets when filing the former while the latter maintains assets.
- Due to the less complicated structure of Chapter 7, the process from filing to hearing and discharge is easier, whereas debtors who file Chapter 13 bankruptcy have to propose a repayment plan which will require scrutiny
- In relation to the above, Chapter 7 debtors get financial relief faster within months, whereas Chapter 13 takes three to five years
- To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, debtors only need to take a means test, while Chapter 13 has several eligibility requirements
- Lastly, Chapter 13 is flexible and allows for changes in the repayment plan. However, debtors may face restrictions in modifying terms under Chapter 7
What is Bankruptcy Protection in Indiana?
Bankruptcy protection is the legal support granted to the debtor when a bankruptcy petition gets filed. Essentially, debtors in Indiana receive this protection in the form of the Automation Stay Provision, which keeps creditors off the debtor’s back while the debtor determines the repayment options. An automatic stay is a powerful tool that prevents creditors from carrying any action to collect or recover a claim against the debtor.
Hence, all debt collection activities like sending collection emails, making collection calls, attempting to repossess, civil litigation, and moving to foreclose a property must stop immediately, or violators may face lawsuits and payment of damages. The stay may last throughout the bankruptcy process but may end upon case dismissal. The court may also lift the stay if the creditor has sufficient grounds to continue debt collection activities.
Note: An automatic stay order does not debtors from some of their creditors’ actions, nor does it apply to non-debtor entities.
What are Indiana Bankruptcy Exemptions?
Indiana bankruptcy exemptions are provisions from state laws that protect some of a debtor’s assets from liquidation. Federal bankruptcy exemptions are not available in the state, but debtors may use federal nonbankruptcy exemptions. However, persons may only be eligible for state exemptions after residing in the state for two years.
Exemptions available to Indiana residents include:
- $19,300 in personal property or real estate used as a residence and $38,600 on spouses jointly-owned property
- Debtor’s interest in a real estate held as a tenant
Wildcard exemption: $10,250 in any tangible property or nonresidential real estate
Wage exemption: The smaller 75% of unpaid wages or 30 times the federal minimum wage
Personal property exemption:
- Health aids
- Up to $400 in intangible personal property
- Interests from a refund or earned income credit for exempted property
- Health savings account funds
- Earned income tax credit
- Military equipment, uniforms, and guns
- Retirement plan interests
- Up to $5,000 in education saving account contributions made over a year and less than two years before filing
- Education saving account contributions made more than two years of a bankruptcy filing
Insurance benefit exemption:
- Fraternal society benefits
- Life insurance policies
- Accident insurance policies
- Pension and retirement exemption:
- Tax-exempt retirement plans
- Pension and retirement benefits for firefighters, police, teachers, and public employees
Public benefit exemption:
- Workers compensation, except for child support claims
- Unemployment compensation
- Social Security benefits
- Partnership property
- Spendthrift trust
- Death and disability benefits
- Survivor’s benefit
Note: In Indiana, there are no specific exemptions for vehicles and tools of the trade.
What are the Other Types of Bankruptcy in Indiana?
Another form of bankruptcy available to consumers in Indiana is Chapter 12 bankruptcy. This is also a plan-based option available to family farmers or fishermen whose debts do not exceed $10 million, with at least 50% arising from farming. Eligible filers shall develop a repayment plan within 90 days of filing the petition and attend the subsequent hearing regarding the plan. Furthermore, there is also the Chapter 9 bankruptcy filed by municipalities in the state and the Chapter 13 bankruptcy involving claimants, assets, debtors, and creditors from more than one country.
How Much Does It Cost to File Bankruptcy in Indiana
The fees for submitting a bankruptcy petition in Indiana are the same as in other states in the USA. Indiana bankruptcy courts have statutory filing and miscellaneous fees of:
- $338 for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
- $313 for Chapter 13 bankruptcy
- $1738 for Chapter 9 bankruptcy
- $1738 for Chapter 15 bankruptcy
Individuals who make less than 150% of the poverty guidelines may be eligible to have their chapter 7 filing charges waived. Inquirers may refer to the Indiana filing fee information for further details.