Are Bankruptcy Records Public Information in Ohio?
Yes, bankruptcy cases are public records, and all documents filed in a bankruptcy case are available for examining and copying by the general public. Interested individuals can access bankruptcy records at the Court Clerk’s Office in person or through the internet via PACER. The rules and regulations for filing for bankruptcy are governed by federal law, and all states adhere to these regulations. States are only able to dictate the applicable bankruptcy exemptions. All bankruptcy filings in Ohio are subject to the state’s bankruptcy exemptions.
Bankruptcy records cease to be available to the general public for viewing and copying only if the Court sealed the case. Bankruptcy cases are public records and will also remain on the debtor’s credit report for 7 to 10 years, depending on the filed bankruptcy Chapter.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These non-governmental data platforms 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. Most third-party sites require some information to process a search. Record seekers may need to provide:
- A bankruptcy case number (if known)
- The name of the debtor on record
Bankruptcy in Ohio
A bankruptcy declaration in the state of Ohio makes it possible for debtors (individuals and businesses) to liquidate their assets or work out a repayment plan with creditors. The Bankruptcy Code was established as a federal law in 1978, to enable individual debtors as well as corporations who are unable to repay creditors to access relief from some or all debt obligations. To initiate a bankruptcy procedure, interested persons may do so at any of the US Bankruptcy Court divisions located in Cincinnati, Columbus, or Dayton. However, the division of the bankruptcy court to initiate a bankruptcy proceeding in the state of Ohio is dependent on where the debtor resides, runs a business, or has assets.
What are Ohio Bankruptcy Records?
Ohio bankruptcy records are court files that contain information on individuals or companies that initiated bankruptcy actions in the State of Ohio. These include financial and personal information of the individual or company, such as gross income, income sources, assets, real property, investments, and creditor information. Bankruptcy records also include the information (personal and financial) of debtors filing for bankruptcy, the details of the creditors, and any other information that may be relevant to the filing.
In compliance with Title 11, section 107 of the United States Code, bankruptcy records are public records. Interested members of the public are granted access to such records except in special cases exempted by courts or law. Interested persons may examine bankruptcy records through mail or by visiting any of the bankruptcy court divisions located in the state of Ohio. Requesters may also access bankruptcy records online through PACER, a record-management service provided by the United States government. Members of the public may also access bankruptcy records on non-governmental sites.
How It Works
Bankruptcy cases fall outside the jurisdiction of Ohio State courts. Federal laws regulate bankruptcy actions and govern the procedures of the Bankruptcy Courts. There are two Bankruptcy Courts in Ohio:
- United States Bankruptcy Court of the Northern District of Ohio: This is the federal bankruptcy court for the 40 northernmost counties in Ohio, including Summit County, Stark County, Cuyahoga County, Lucas County, and Mahoning County.
- United States Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of Ohio: This is the federal bankruptcy court with jurisdiction over the 44 southernmost counties in Ohio. The Court is further divided into the Eastern Division and the Western Division.
Ohio bankruptcy courts maintain records in alphabetical indexes consisting of the names of the individuals or businesses, the filing dates, and the case numbers. Usually, this information is required when trying to access the bankruptcy records of an individual or a business. Records from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Ohio can be accessed through the following means:
- Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER)
- Bankruptcy Court Electronic Case Filing (ECF) systems
- Multi-Court Voice Case Information System (MCVCIS)
- National Archives and Records Administration
- Courthouse public access terminals
Where to Conduct a Free Bankruptcy Case Search in Ohio
In Ohio, federal courts handle bankruptcy cases. Any person may conduct free bankruptcy case searches through these courts so long as they only intend to view case information. The federal courts assess copy or certification fees to obtain physical or certified copies.
Some channels through which persons may conduct free bankruptcy searches in Ohio include:
- Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER): PACER provides electronic access to court case information online. Generally, registered users must pay $0.10 per page, billed quarterly, to access files through PACER. However, users whose bills amount to less than $30 in a quarter receive a fee waiver and do not have to pay. An individual can use the PACER Case Locator to determine the bankruptcy court where a case was filed.
- The Multi-Court Voice Case Information System (McVCIS): The Multi-Court Voice Case Information System provides public access to free bankruptcy case information and records for cases filed in the United States bankruptcy courts. Interested persons can call (866) 222-8029 to access the system. The search reveals a debtor's name, the case's filing date, the case number, the presiding judge, the status and disposition of a case, and more.
- Public Terminals: Public terminals at the United States bankruptcy courthouses provide individuals with free electronic access to bankruptcy case files.
What Do Ohio Bankruptcy Records Contain?
An Ohio bankruptcy record will typically contain the following information:
- Case number
- Debtor’s (principal party) name
- Date of filing
- Chapter of filing
- Voluntary or involuntary filing
- Attorney’s contact details
- Name of the bankruptcy trustee assigned to the case
- Name of the judge assigned to the case
- 341 meeting date, time, and venue
- List of assets
- Case status
- Case disposition
- Discharge and closing dates
How to Get Ohio Bankruptcy Records?
Ohio bankruptcy records can be obtained via the following ways:
The Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system is an electronic service that provides the general public with online access to federal court records. Persons requiring this service to retrieve federal court records must register for the service and create a user login and password. Registered users are charged fees for using this service, based on the amount or type of information accessed and the type of service used.
The McVCIS (Multi-Court Voice Case Information System) is an automated telephone system developed for federal courts nationwide. This system provides the public with general access to Ohio bankruptcy case information and records via toll-free telephone calls. Below are step-by-step instructions to use the service:
- Dail (866) 222-8029.
- When prompted, say “Ohio” to select the desired state.
- Choose between the northern and southern districts when prompted to select the desired Bankruptcy Court. Callers can press # to hear a list of available courts.
- Be sure to listen to the instructions from the message prompts when using the system. Proceed by either entering the digits on the telephone keypad or saying them out one at a time. For instructions, press 1 or say "help".
- To search by case number, click 2 or say "case number":
- To search by name, click 3 or say "name":
- To search by social security number or tax ID number, click 4 or say "social security".
Users of the McVCIS service can make up to five queries per telephone call.
Individuals can visit any of the Courts’ locations during business hours and use the public access terminals located in the building to find and view bankruptcy records electronically. Records can be viewed for free, but there is a charge of $0.10 for obtaining copies of these bankruptcy records.
The Northern Bankruptcy Court has five courthouses located at the following addresses:
John F. Seiberling Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse
455 U.S. Courthouse
2 South Main Street
Akron, OH 44308
Phone: (330) 252-6100
Fax: (330) 252-6115
Ralph Regula Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
401 McKinley Avenue, South-West
Canton, OH 44702-1745
Phone: (330) 458-2120
Fax: (330) 458-2451
Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse
201 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114-1235
Phone: (216) 615-4300
Fax: (216) 615-4363
James M. Ashley and Thomas W. L. Ashley U.S. Courthouse
1716 Spielbusch Avenue
Toledo, OH 43604
Phone: (419) 213-5600
Fax: (419) 213-5647
Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse
10 East Commerce Street
Youngstown, OH 44503-1621
Phone: (330) 742-0900
Fax: (330) 742-0902
Meanwhile, the Southern Bankruptcy Court has three courthouses at the following locations:
Cincinnati Divisional Office
221 East Fourth Street
Atrium Two, Suite 800
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Phone: (513) 684-2572
Columbus Divisional Office
170 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: (614) 469-6638
Dayton Divisional Office
120 West Third Street
Dayton, OH 45402
Phone: (937) 225-2516
The Court Clerk can mail copies of bankruptcy records to individuals who submit requests. The requester must submit the appropriate fees with the request. Certified copies of bankruptcy records cost $11.
Archived bankruptcy records are available from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For the Northern District, bankruptcy records filed before January 1, 2003, are also available from the Federal Records Center. Bankruptcy records from after January 1, 2003, can be obtained using the Court’s Archived Records Search. For the Southern District, closed case information and records are available from the Federal Records Center or through the Bankruptcy Court.
How Do I Find Out if My Bankruptcy Case is Closed in Ohio?
A bankruptcy case is considered closed when the Court issues a closing order, which is different from the discharge notice. The Court sends a notice directly to the petitioner (or their attorney) notifying of the closure of a bankruptcy case.
Individuals can obtain the status of any bankruptcy cases using PACER to search and retrieve the status of the bankruptcy case. They can also retrieve the status of a bankruptcy case using the Electronic Case Filing (ECF) system of the particular Bankruptcy Court where the case was filed. Also, individuals can ascertain the status of a bankruptcy case by accessing McVCIS.
Can a Bankruptcy Be Expunged in Ohio?
Bankruptcy records cannot be expunged or removed from public inspection in Ohio. Public access to bankruptcy records can only be restricted by having the records sealed by a court order. There is no procedure in the Bankruptcy Code for the expungement of bankruptcy records. The Court retains these records to know if the debtor files another petition.
What is the Downside of Filing for Bankruptcy in Ohio?
There are some downsides associated with filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy does not discharge all debts. Debts such as taxes, alimony or child support, fines levied by government agencies, as well as student loans are not discharged when a debtor files for bankruptcy. The type of bankruptcy being filed will also determine the type of debt that will be discharged. Other cons associated with the declaration of bankruptcy include:
- Loss of non-exempt properties such as cars and houses.
- Spending limitations on debtors once a debt repayment plan has been worked out.
- Limitations in filing especially for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy which may be filed after 8 years interval from the first one.
- Difficulty in accessing loans and other forms of credit.
- Lowers the credit score and remains on the credit report for seven to ten years. Lower credit score: filing for bankruptcy lowers the credit score.
- Possibility of closure of credit card accounts held by the debtor.
Notwithstanding the limitations, filing for bankruptcy may be beneficial to debtors in the following ways:
- Debtors may be granted full or partial relief from debts.
- Enables debtors to pay off debts faster using a repayment schedule worked out by the court.
- Relief from incessant calls and possible lawsuits from creditors.
What is Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Ohio?
In Ohio, Chapter 11 bankruptcy is the bankruptcy filed by corporations and sometimes individuals(with debt that is above the amount allowed in Chapter 13 bankruptcy), unable to pay creditors. By filing this bankruptcy, debtors may restructure their debt and in collaboration with creditors draw up a repayment plan that works for both parties without liquidating the assets of the business.
The debt reorganizing and restructuring requires the approval of a bankruptcy court before it is binding on the parties. Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Ohio requires corporations to submit details which may include the list of debtors, list of creditors, evidence of credit counseling, and other financial details.
Who Files for a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Ohio?
In Ohio, Chapter 11 Bankruptcy may be filed by the debtor or creditors. Where the debtor files a petition with the courts, such is required to submit a debt reorganization proposal within four months of filing the petition. The court however may extend the period at its discretion. Where the debtor fails to submit a reorganization proposal within the specified timeframe, creditors or other third parties such as shareholders may propose an alternative restructuring plan.
Why File for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Ohio?
Filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy (also known as reorganization bankruptcy) gives debtors certain benefits which includes
- The opportunity to carry on normal business operations without liquidation of assets.
- A workable payment plan that favors both the debtor and creditors.
- Freedom from harassment from creditors as a result of automatic stay given by the courts.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is best suited for businesses filing for bankruptcy. However, individuals with a debt that is above $419,275 are eligible for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Ohio?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also known as liquidation bankruptcy, provides a workable structure for Ohio residents to clear their debts by liquidating non-exempt properties. Examples of non-exempt properties include rental properties, jewelry, and cars. The trustee is required to liquidate the debtor's assets and distribute the proceeds to the creditors.
Do I Qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Ohio?
Eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio is determined by the income level of the debtor. Debtors filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after May 1, 2018, are required to have an annual income that is below the median income in the state. For a single earner, the median annual income is $48,596. Where a debtor's earning is above the state's median income, the debtor is required to provide proof that the available disposable income after all living expenses have been paid, will not cover the debt.
To file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, interested persons may be required to fill bankruptcy forms, evaluate their assets, enroll and complete a credit counseling program, and meet the eligibility requirement.
Why File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Ohio?
Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio is beneficial to debtors in so many ways some of which includes:
- Expedite release from debt as repayments are concluded within six months of filing.
- Discharge of all or most unsecured debts.
- Exemption of some assets such as clothing, child support, and pension funds from liquidation.
Note: some debts may not be discharged after filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Examples of non-dischargeable debts include student loans, child support, taxes, as well as alimony.
What is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Ohio?
In Ohio, Chapter 13 bankruptcy, also referred to as "wage earner's bankruptcy" is a type of bankruptcy filed by regular income earners and sole proprietors to develop a debt repayment plan for some or all their debts. Large corporations and businesses are not eligible for this type of bankruptcy.
The repayment plan proposed by debtors can run for a 3-5 year period. However, the specific duration for repayment depends on the income of the debtor. Debtors filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy are allowed to retain their assets while debt repayment is made from current and future income based on the repayment plan approved by the courts.
Do I Qualify for Ohio Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
The eligibility for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is determined by the amount of debt owed. As of 2017, to be eligible for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, debtors must not owe above $360,475 in unsecured debt and $1,082,400 in secured debt. This amount is adjusted based on the current cost of living. Other requirements for eligibility include:
- Undergoing a credit counseling program within 180 days of filing for bankruptcy
- Interested persons must have a regular source of income.
What is the Difference Between a Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Ohio?
While Chapters 7 and 13 bankruptcies share some similarities, they are different in so many ways. The differences are as follows:
- While Chapter 7 bankruptcy provides a debt-repayment plan funded by liquidating the debtor's assets, Chapter 13 bankruptcy on the other hand works out a debt repayment structure for debtors without selling off their assets.
- The requirements for eligibility for both forms of bankruptcy differ. While individuals, businesses, as well as sole proprietors, are eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be filed by only individuals and sole proprietors and not corporations and businesses.
- While a Chapter 7 bankruptcy takes between 3 to 6 months to complete, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment may linger for 3 to 5 years.
What is Bankruptcy Protection in Ohio?
Ohio bankruptcy protection is a court order issued by a bankruptcy court to creditors to stop further actions to recover a debt after a debtor files for bankruptcy. This court order is also known as automatic stay judgment. Bankruptcy protection buys individuals, companies, and businesses time to come up with a debt repayment plan. Creditors are by this order mandated to pause debt recovery actions such as repossession, garnishments, harassment, incessant calls, and text messages, as well as legal actions. Non-compliance to the court order on the part of the creditors may attract sanctions.
What are Ohio Bankruptcy Exemptions?
Ohio bankruptcy exemptions serve as protection to debtors filing for bankruptcy from total liquidation of all assets. Some assets are labeled "exempt" and are not liquidated to repay debts. In some states, debtors filing for bankruptcy are allowed to choose either state or federal bankruptcy exemptions. This however is not the case in Ohio. Residents who have lived in the state for a minimum of two years are required to use only the state bankruptcy exemptions. Some of the items under the state exemption list include:
- Exemption for Homestead: Equity in personal property serving as debtor's residence may be exempted up to $145,425.
- Vehicle exemptions: exemptions for vehicles may be up to $4,000
- Wildcard exemption: this gives the debtor an opportunity to choose any personal property (aside from real estate) to exempt up to $1,325.
- Jewelry: these are exempt up to $1,700.
- Child support and alimony
- Tools of trade up to $2,550.
Other exemptions in the state of Ohio include burial plot, cash, tax refund, clothing, health aid, insurance, saving plans, and wages.
What are the Other Types of Bankruptcy in Ohio?
Aside from Chapter 7, 11, and 13 bankruptcies, Ohio residents may also file for Chapter 12 bankruptcy. Chapter 12 bankruptcy is however limited to farmers who earn a major part of their income from farming operations.
There are alternative options debtors may employ to get relief from debts without filing for bankruptcy and they include:
- Direct negotiation with creditors to restructure debt repayment plans.
- Enlisting the services of credit counseling to assist in debt management.
- Employing the services of a bankruptcy attorney to negotiate a debt settlement with creditors
- Fighting disputed debts in court when sued by a creditor.
How Much Does It Cost to File Bankruptcy in Ohio?
The cost of filing bankruptcy in Ohio depends on three main factors: the filed bankruptcy chapter, the attorney fees, and the miscellaneous expenses.
Bankruptcy Chapter: In Ohio, different filing fees apply to submit a bankruptcy petition. For instance, filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy costs $338, which consists of a $245 filing fee, a $78 administrative fee, and a $15 trustee surcharge. In contrast, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy costs $313 ($235 filing fee and a $78 administrative fee).
Attorney Costs: Attorney fees are influenced by many factors, including the case's chapter, the case's complexity, and the filing location (prices are higher in bigger cities than in smaller ones). For this reason, it is best to contact a law firm or attorney's office for a price quote.
Miscellaneous Costs: Miscellaneous costs include the fees for debtor education and credit counseling courses, miscellaneous court costs, and other expenses that arise during the case, including transportation to and from the courthouse.