By the time people get to my office to actually discuss their bankruptcy options they are usually in dire financial straits. With all the financial pressure you would think they would only want to discuss economic problems. Yet, often looking a little distressed and sometimes tearful, people ask, "Is my family or my boss going to find out about this?"

I fully understand that bankruptcy can be somewhat embarrassing. Certainly people aren't throwing bankruptcy parties to celebrate their fresh start. They do not get t-shirts printed that boldly exclaim "KISS ME, I FILED BANKRUPTCY!"

When I hear an individual's concerns about family and bosses potentially finding out about their bankruptcy, I know that my client is basically asking if he will be left with any dignity after he files bankruptcy.

The short answer is that your boss and you family and friends will not know you filed bankruptcy. Why is this? Bankruptcy filings are completed through an electronic filing system with the bankruptcy court. That system is online, but in order to gain access you must apply for a PACER NET account, have a legal reason to have the account, and be approved. Once you are approved for your account it costs ten cents for each page you look at. Needless to say this is nothing like a simple Google search.

A few other questions I commonly hear:

"So is my bankruptcy on Google?" No.

"So where does it show up?" Each county has a legal periodical that title companies and law offices obtain through a paid subscription. So, if a friend, boss, or relative works for a lawyer or at a title company and they read the periodical they might see your name. The reason I say "might" is these publications list all legal matters in a county not just bankruptcies.

"Will a letter or notification go to my boss?" No. There is no reason for the bankruptcy court to contact your boss unless he or she is one of the people to whom you owe money. If you owe the boss or family member money, then they will get notice of the filing of your case.

Basically, your case is as private as you want to keep it. Surprisingly, most of our clients do not keep it private. Over 65% of our new clients come from personal referrals. Apparently the fresh start people get, that feeling of a new, bright financial future, seems to outweigh any fear of revealing the fact to others.