Are Bankruptcy Records Public Information in New Jersey?
Yes. New Jersey Open Public Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and U.S. Bankruptcy law consider bankruptcy filings public records. Bankruptcy proceedings and meetings of creditors are also open to the public unless a court order says otherwise.
Nevertheless, these laws allow the courts to redact or seal documents containing sensitive information. Sensitive information includes trade secrets, national security, or defamatory information related to the debtor. Still, the sequestration of bankruptcy documents from public access is per judicial behest (11 U.S. Code § 107).
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. 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 New Jersey
Bankruptcy in New Jersey is a legal process where individuals or businesses unable to repay debts are granted relief from all or part of their debts. All individuals or entities can file for bankruptcy in New Jersey as long as they meet the requirements. The Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure majorly govern the steps for filing bankruptcy. In addition to this, all bankruptcy cases in the state are under the purview of the federal district courts. As of 2021, New Jersey has three federal district courts, each with a bankruptcy court to oversee all bankruptcy cases in the region.
Persons or businesses who file for bankruptcy are referred to as debtors, according to Title 11 of the United States Code (the Bankruptcy Code). Furthermore, debtors may file for different types of bankruptcy, depending on the following factors: average income level, amount of debt, and type of the desired outcome. For example, filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy leads to a liquidation of non-exempt properties. In contrast, filing a chapter 11 or 13 bankruptcy enables debtors to control their assets and pay off creditors over a specific time.
How Do I Qualify for Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
Individuals or companies can qualify for bankruptcy in New Jersey, depending on the type of bankruptcy being filed. Bankruptcy courts in New Jersey require debtors to take means tests to know if they qualify for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The means test analyzes the debtor’s disposable income and average earnings in the past few months before the filing date. Debtors who earn below the state median income are eligible for chapter 7 bankruptcy. Alternatively, those who earn above the median income are financially capable of filing for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Per the 11 U.S.C. § 109(e), persons or entities filing for a chapter 13 must have secured and unsecured debts less than $1,184,200 and $394,725, respectively.
In contrast, only farmers and fishers are eligible to file a chapter 12 bankruptcy whereas a chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed for municipalities and cities.
What Type of Bankruptcy Should You File in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, debtors file for bankruptcy based on their desired outcome. For example, debtors can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to get total relief from all unsecured debts. In contrast, debtors who want to continue operations without selling off assets can file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Corporations can file for chapter 11 bankruptcy since it provides an option to restructure debts in the best way possible. Furthermore, farmers with debts may apply under a Chapter 12 bankruptcy.
Where and How to File for Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
Individuals and entities can file for bankruptcy in bankruptcy courts at the following locations:
Federal District Court in Newark
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
50 Walnut Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Phone: (973) 645-3930
Federal District Court in Camden
Deputy in Charge
P.O. Box 2067
Camden, NJ 08102
Phone: (609) 757-5424
Federal District Court in Trenton
Deputy in Charge
402 East State Street
Trenton, NJ 08608
Phone: (609) 989-2129
Persons or entities must file for bankruptcy in New Jersey via the following general steps:
- All persons or entities must attend a credit counseling course at least six months before filing for bankruptcy. Note that a bankruptcy judge will only acknowledge a credit counseling course from an accredited credit counseling agency;
- Next, debtors must collate all the required documents for filing a bankruptcy in New Jersey. Necessary documents include a voluntary petition to seek financial relief under Chapter 7, 9, 11, 12, or 13 bankruptcy. Sometimes, creditors can file for bankruptcy on behalf of the debtor - this situation is referred to as an involuntary petition. Under §§301–303 of the Bankruptcy Code, an involuntary petition can be filed under Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy only.
- Debtors may hire an attorney to help out in filling out the required bankruptcy forms. Also, hiring an attorney increases the success rate of petitions filed under Chapter 11 or 13 bankruptcies.
- After filling out the forms, debtors must file the completed documents with the bankruptcy court clerk in their federal district. Under New Jersey state laws, debtors must operate a business or reside in the state for at least 91 to 180 days before filing for bankruptcy.
What Do New Jersey Bankruptcy Records Contain?
A bankruptcy record will contain all the information relevant to a bankruptcy case and documents submitted by the debtor during the petition. While bankruptcy cases vary, requesters can expect to find the following information in a typical New Jersey bankruptcy record:
- Name of the debtor(s)
- Chapter of bankruptcy filed
- Businesses owned or partnership
- Filing status (as an individual or a company)
- List of creditors
- Filing date
- Meeting of creditors (314 Meeting)
- Hearing and discharge date
- Name and contact information of bankruptcy attorneys
- Contact information of the bankruptcy administrator/trustee
- Name of the presiding judge
- Schedule of Assets
- Schedule of Liabilities
- Statement of Financial Affairs
- Proof of claim from creditors
- Disclosure statement and plan
- Complaints and Briefs
- Applications and Affidavits
- Court orders and Notices
- Case status
- Final judgment/Case disposition
- Transcript of proceedings
How to Get New Jersey Bankruptcy Records
Interested persons can obtain publicly available bankruptcy records in New Jersey in person, via mail requests, or by searching an online database. Limited case information is also through an automated voice service.
Regarding the administration of bankruptcy petitions, New Jersey is organized into a single federal district. The district is further subdivided into three (3) divisions that handle filings from specific counties and townships. To get a bankruptcy record in person, confirm where the debtor filed the case.
Upon confirmation, prepare a written request that describes the record sought with the debtor's name and case number. If known, provide the name of the presiding judge and the representing attorney. These details help the record custodian find and retrieve the bankruptcy record from the court archives. Visit the clerk's office to submit the request using these directions.
Note that a search fee of $30.00 applies to in-person requests, and the Clerk's office charges $0.50 per page to make copies of the bankruptcy record. These fees are payable with a certified check, cashier's check, and money order.
The mailing address of New Jersey bankruptcy courts is different. The interested requester must use the mailing address of the court for all mail correspondence. With this in mind, the requester must enclose the written request in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Attach the acceptable payment methods, i.e., certified check or money order, and post the letter. Persons who cannot afford these fees may check the official policy regarding free access and fee exemption.
Using the Voice Case Information System (VCIS), an interested requester may access limited case information over the telephone. Available information includes debtor name, case number, name of the presiding judge, and filing date.
VCIS also lets requesters know the chapter of bankruptcy filed, asset designation, the name of representing attorney, the court-assigned trustee, and the case's current status. To use VCIS, call (866) 222-8029 toll-free.
- An online search for bankruptcy records
Upon receiving a bankruptcy petition, the court clerk maintains physical copies of the documents and uploads digital copies of the documents to an electronic repository. This electronic repository is the public access to court electronic records system (PACER). Follow these steps to find New Jersey bankruptcy records using PACER:
- Visit the PACER website
- Create a PACER account by providing personal information and credit card details
- Login to the dedicated PACER portal for the New Jersey bankruptcy court
- Search the database with the debtor name or case number
Unlike in-person and mail requests that are only available during business hours, PACER is available at any time. Furthermore, the service charges $0.10 per page viewed, and users may print the documents accessed. PACER is also available on the public terminals at the courthouse. Using the public terminal is free, but the $0.10 fee per page still applies.
For all the methods of accessing bankruptcy records in New Jersey, note that courts only maintain these records for fifteen (15) years. After that, the court transfers custody of the bankruptcy records to the Federal Records Center at the National Archives per 44 U.S. Code § 3303. To access archived records, order the bankruptcy record online. Alternatively, interested requesters may contact the Records Center via email at email@example.com.
Where to Conduct a Free Bankruptcy Case Search in New Jersey
Here's how an individual can conduct a free bankruptcy case search in New Jersey:
- Perform a free search on any computer at the bankruptcy court clerk's office to search for bankruptcy cases in New Jersey. These terminals have indexes of bankruptcy cases filed in the court. While one may examine records for free, the United States bankruptcy court in New Jersey charges a fee to release copies.
- Call the Voice Case Information System to acquire basic bankruptcy case information for free. This service is available at any hour.
Persons requiring bankruptcy case records for research purposes can also apply for a fee exemption.
How Do I Find Out if My Bankruptcy Case is Closed in New Jersey?
A bankruptcy case becomes closed when the presiding judge issues a final judgment. Thus, a discharge of debt does not automatically connote case closure. To know if the bankruptcy case is closed, contact the trustee assigned or visit the clerk's office. Alternatively, concerned persons may use PACER to check the current status of the bankruptcy case.
Can a Bankruptcy Be Expunged in New Jersey?
No, courts cannot expunge bankruptcy records in New Jersey. Per 11 U.S.C. § 107(a), bankruptcy records are public records. While a person may submit a motion to expunge, the court has no statutory authority to grant the expungement.
Federal laws on bankruptcy only grant bankruptcy courts the authority to redact, seal, or restrict public access to documents under extenuating circumstances. Even so, such documents are still available to authorized entities.
What are the Downsides of Filing for Bankruptcy in New Jersey
Filing for bankruptcy is generally regarded as a “last option” due to the following downsides:
- Bankruptcy petitions create a negative remark on credit score. For example, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy negative remark lasts on a credit score for ten years;
- Filing for bankruptcy does not discharge all debts. For example, debts, such as federal and private student loans, alimony, child support, and tax debts cannot be removed by filing for bankruptcy.
- After filing for bankruptcy, debtors may find it difficult to secure traditional prime loans. Also, credit card companies may charge a higher interested rate after filing for bankruptcy;
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not protect a guarantor or co-signer from debt collection;
- Persons filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy may repay all or part of unsecured debts over a three to five-year period.
In contrast, filing for bankruptcy offers debtors the following benefits:
- The court issues an automatic stay to prevent debt collection by creditors;
- Debtors can use state or federal bankruptcy exemptions to protect certain assets and properties from liquidation;
- In Chapter 11 or 13 bankruptcy, debtors can keep working and protect assets by paying over a specified period.
What is Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
Chapter 11 bankruptcy in New Jersey enables corporations, partnerships, and individuals to restructure their debt and pay off creditors. In a chapter 11 bankruptcy, the debtors assume the role of a trustee and may decide the best course of paying off creditors. Debtors may choose to liquidate assets, continue to operate the business or borrow new funds from the creditors. In addition, debtors may appoint accountants, auctioneers, appraisers, and other professionals to help out with the bankruptcy petition. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy protects the personal assets of stakeholders in a corporation from liquidation. In contrast, debtors’ assets in a sole proprietorship are not exempt from any bankruptcy-related action.
Who Can File for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, individuals and business entities are eligible to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code requires individuals to have unsecured and secured debts exceeding $300,000 and $1,000,000, respectively. Besides debtors, creditors can also file for chapter 11 bankruptcy on behalf of the company or individual in debt. Under 11 U.S.C. §§ 109(g), 362(d)-(e), two or three creditors can file a bankruptcy petition on behalf of the debtor. In addition, bankruptcy court prevents creditors from taking possession of a debtor’s properties after filing for bankruptcy - this provides debtors with enough time to develop a debt repayment plan.
In addition to this, the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 enables small businesses to easily file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy by providing more flexibility in negotiating repayment structures with creditors.
How to File a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
Filing a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in New Jersey starts with a credit counseling course at an accredited agency. Debtors must file the credit counseling course certificate alongside other required documents at the bankruptcy court serving the region where the debtor or business is domiciled.
Debtors filing a voluntary petition at the bankruptcy court must present the following documents at the bankruptcy court:
- A Form B 101 for a voluntary petition
- Statement of financial affairs (for individuals);
- Schedule A - J Forms of liabilities and assets (for individuals);
- A schedule of unexpired leases and executory contracts (for individuals);
- A statement of financial affairs (for businesses);
- Schedule A/B, D, E/F, G, and H Forms of assets and liabilities (for companies);
- A schedule of unexpired leases and executory contracts (for businesses).
In addition to the forms mentioned above, debtors can obtain the complete list of all required documents via the B 2000 Forms. According to the US Bankruptcy Code, debtors must pay a $1,000 case filing fee and a $39 miscellaneous administrative fee. The filing fee must be submitted as a money order payable to the US Bankruptcy Court. On the other hand, debtors can pay the filing fee in installments by paying at least 25% of the total cost and filling out an application for a fee waiver.
What are the Benefits of Filing a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
The benefits of filing a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy are listed below:
- The debtor acts as the bankruptcy trustee and is responsible for restructuring debt to pay off creditors;
- Debtors can obtain lower rates on previously-high interest loans after filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy;
How Long Does a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Record Last on Record?
Chapter 11 bankruptcy in New Jersey lasts on record for ten years after the filing date.
What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a legal way for individuals to pay off unsecured debts. The debtor’s debts are liquidated to settle creditors. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can clear various unsecured debts - medical bills, collection account, payday loans, and credit card debts. Filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy does not discharge student loans, alimony, or child support payments.
Individual debtors can still file for chapter 7 bankruptcy even after being sued by creditors. A chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in New Jersey prevents creditors from claiming the debtor’s assets. The court appoints a bankruptcy trustee to oversee the sale of the debtor’s assets and properties and pays off creditors the equivalent value of the debt. In addition, bankruptcy trustees will pay the leftover funds from the sale to debtors. Note that not all assets or properties are liquidated during a Chapter 7 bankruptcy - the state exempts properties like houses or cars from liquidation.
Who Can File a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in New Jersey
Individuals or sole proprietors can file for chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Jersey. Under state law, persons must have an income level less than the state’s median income. As of 2019, New Jersey’s median household income was $81,545. To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Jersey, debtors must take the means test. The means test analyzes the debtor’s income in the last six months. Therefore, debtors with inconsistent monthly income must take note when taking the means test since months of higher income can disqualify them from filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in New Jersey
Debtors filing for bankruptcy in New Jersey must start with a credit counseling course at the Department of Justice-approved center. To file for chapter 7 bankruptcy, debtors must present the credit counseling certificate alongside the following documents at the bankruptcy court:
- Voluntary petition (Official Form 101);
- Statement on Social Security Number Fed.R.Bankr.P. 1007(f)
- Document detailing the names and addresses of all creditors;
- Notice required for filing for bankruptcy;
- Send a filing fee as a money order to the Clerk, United States Bankruptcy Court.
It costs $338 to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Jersey. Alternatively, debtors can pay the filing fee installments by filling out the Official Form 103A. Debtors must fill out the Official Form 103B to entirely waive the application form.
What are the Benefits of Filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
Filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy prevents creditors from repossessing a debtor’s assets and properties:
- There is no debt requirement when filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy;
- A Chapter 13 bankruptcy has a high success rate;
- State bankruptcy exemptions protect properties, such as cars and homes.
How Long Does a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lasts on Records?
A chapter 7 bankruptcy record remains on credit score reports ten years from the filing date in New Jersey.
What is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions in New Jersey are designed to enable persons with a high and stable financial income to pay off all unsecured debts. Similar to the Chapter 11 bankruptcy, debtors retain control over all assets, non-exempt or exempt. Thus, the debtor is responsible for proposing a repayment plan to the bankruptcy court, creditors, and creditors. Debtors must create repayment plans based on the factors listed below:
- The level of disposable income;
- The value of the non-exempt property that is not covered by the state or federal bankruptcy exemption;
- The value of non-dischargeable debts.
The primary purpose of filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy is to prevent the loss of properties or assets. Debtors must repay all debts, such as overdue tax debt, mortgage, or car loan arrearages, over a fixed timeframe. To create a repayment plan, debtors must subtract their monthly expenses from their income every month. The monthly costs may include the following:
- Cost of childcare
- Mortgage or rent
- Clothing, food, and utilities
- Monthly tax payments.
Who Can File a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
Individuals can file a chapter 13 bankruptcy in New Jersey under the following conditions:
- The unsecured debts, such as medical bills and credit card debts, must not exceed $394,725.
- The secured debts, such as a mortgage, must not exceed $1,184,200.
- Must provide proof of state and federal tax payments over the last four years.
- In addition to this, persons filing for tax must have a stable and monthly income higher than the state’s median income level of a household of that size.
How to File a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
New Jersey bankruptcy laws require debtors to attend a credit counseling course before filing for bankruptcy. Persons in debt must obtain a credit counseling certificate from an accredited agency before taking the step to file for bankruptcy.
In addition, debtors must take the means test to determine their eligibility for a chapter 13 bankruptcy. Generally, persons with a high disposable income can file for chapter 13 bankruptcy at the bankruptcy court serving their jurisdiction.
Also, debtors must provide the following documents when filing for bankruptcy:
- Voluntary petition (Official Form 101);
- Statement on Social Security Number Fed.R.Bankr.P. 1007(f)
- Document detailing the names and addresses of all creditors;
- Certificate of credit counseling;
- A photocopy of a government-approved identification card;
- Notice required for filing for bankruptcy;
Debtors must pay the filing fee as a money order to the Clerk, United States Bankruptcy Court. Chapter 13 fee is $313. Also, debtors can pay in installments by paying at least 25% (69.50%) of the filing fee alongside a completed Official 103A Form. The court also enables debtors to entirely waive the filing fee by filling out an Official 103B Form.
What are the Benefits of Filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
Filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in New jersey features the following benefits:
- Debtors can keep all their properties, including exempt and non-exempt properties;
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy halts all foreclosure procedures. Thereby giving debtors the chance to make past due payments current;
- The bankruptcy court issues an automatic stay to prevent creditors from selling off or possessing the debtor’s assets and properties;
- Debtors can discharge more debts under Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
How Long Does a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Stay on Record?
A chapter 13 bankruptcy record remains on credit score reports seven years from the filing date in New Jersey.
What is the Difference Between a Chapter 7 and 13 Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
Under the Bankruptcy Code, the difference between filing for a Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy lies in the following aspects:
The debtor’s income level. Persons filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy must have an average income less than the state’s median income level. In contrast, persons with a high and stable disposable income are eligible to file a chapter 13 bankruptcy:
The co-signer's immunity to a loan. Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, co-signers to a debtor’s loan are also responsible for repaying the loan. Alternatively, a chapter 13 bankruptcy exempts co-signers from paying the debtor’s loan.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy settles a majority of the debtor’s unsecured debts within three to four months. In contrast, debtors in a chapter 13 bankruptcy must repay all or part of unsecured debts within three to five years.
What is Bankruptcy Protection in New Jersey?
When debtors file for bankruptcy, bankruptcy courts issue protection or automatic stay to prevent credit collectors from possessing debtors’ assets or properties. Furthermore, bankruptcy protection nullifies every judgment or appeal file to repossess a debtor’s assets.
What are New Jersey Bankruptcy Exemptions?
New Jersey bankruptcy exemptions refer to all properties or assets that are not affected when filing for bankruptcy. Persons or entities can choose to obtain state or federal bankruptcy exemptions during bankruptcy. Under New Jersey state laws, the following properties and assets are exempt in bankruptcy:
- Annuity contracts up to $500 every month;
- Workers or unemployment benefits;
- Death benefits of military personnel;
- Personal properties, such as clothing, burial plots, furniture up to $1,000, and permanent disability benefits;
- Insurance benefits.
What are the Other Types of Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
Individuals or entities can also file for chapter 12 bankruptcy in New Jersey. This type of bankruptcy was designed for farmers and fishers. Similar to Chapter 13, the chapter 12 bankruptcy enables farmers and fishermen to restructure debts and pay them off within three to five years. In Chapter 12 bankruptcy, a certain percentage of the total debts must be related to commercial farming. Also, it requires family members or stockholders to hold a portion of equity or stock.
Besides filing for bankruptcy, debtors can also try out the following alternatives:
- Debt consolidation loans are an alternative option for debtors. It enables persons or entities to apply for a loan to settle all debts. In addition, it allows debtors to pay off the loan in monthly installments at meager interest rates.
- Debtors might enter into a credit counseling plan to pay off debts within a specific period.
How Much Does It Cost to File Bankruptcy in New Jersey?
There are different types of bankruptcy cases. The cost to file bankruptcy depends on the type of bankruptcy to be filed. For instance, a chapter 9 petition costs $1,728, a chapter 7 petition costs $338, and a chapter 13 costs $313. Other court fees that apply to file bankruptcy petitions in New Jersey can be found on the United States Bankruptcy Court - District of New Jersey website.
Persons who cannot pay the bankruptcy filing fee can offer to pay in installments. Also, individuals below the 150% poverty line in New Jersey can apply for a waiver at the court.
Besides court costs and filing fees, legal fees also contribute to the total cost of filing for bankruptcy in New Jersey. Those who do not have the money to hire legal counsel can file for bankruptcy pro se (on their own). However, an individual without knowledge of the bankruptcy laws or court process is advised against this route, as they may jeopardize their case in court. Notably, several organizations offer legal aid for free or at subsidized fees. One can seek out these services instead.