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How To File Bankruptcy: Where Your Case Is Filed

This is part of our series on How To File Bankruptcy.

how to file bankruptcyGetting your bankruptcy case filed can be a problem if you don’t know where to do so.

Lots of people call me up and ask me to file a case in Los Angeles because they work there and it’s easier for them to get to the court.

This, regardless of the fact that they live in Orange County.

Or they live in New Jersey but want to file in New York.

After all, it’s a quicker ferry ride to the courthouse than it would be to drive to Newark.

If only it were that easy.

Venue In Bankruptcy Case

If you file bankruptcy in the wrong court, your case may get transferred or thrown out entirely.

In order to prevent that, you’ve got to file your case in the proper venue.

Venue, in case you’re not someone who kicks back by reading legal dictionaries, is the technical term for the place where the bankruptcy will be filed. Each state has at least one bankruptcy court, and each court is divided up into divisions.

For example, California has four districts – aptly named as Northern, Southern, Eastern and Central. Within each district there are multiple divisions.

Los Angeles County is in the Central District of California, which contains the following divisions:

Santa Barbara
Santa Ana
Riverside
Los Angeles
San Fernando Valley

Your ZIP code determines the division in which your case should be filed. You can use the Court Locator to figure out where you need to be.

Venue Based On You

You can file a bankruptcy case in any district in which you have been domiciled, had a residence, principal place of business or principal assets for 180 days immediately before filing for bankruptcy or for a longer part of such 180 days than in any other District.

The decision, therefore, can give you some choices. If, for example, you own a business with a principal location in Nevada but live in Louisiana, you may be able to file bankruptcy in Nevada or in Louisiana.

More important, however, is the word domicile. You probably think a domicile is the place you live, but that’s not necessarily so. In fact, a domicile is considered to be your permanent home, where you reside with the intention to remain or to which you intend to return.

For example, let’s say you are in Ohio for work but intend to return to Brooklyn once the job is done. If you can prove that intent to return to Brooklyn, you may be able to file for bankruptcy there as well as in Ohio.

Venue Based On Others

If you have a family member, a partner or an affiliate which already filed a case, then you could choose to have your case go ahead in that district. In other words, if your sister filed for bankruptcy in Wisconsin and you live in Oklahoma, you could conceivably make a case to file there.

In addition, if there’s a bankruptcy case concerning your affiliate, general partner, or partnership pending in a particular place then you could file there as well.

Finally, you could file for bankruptcy in the United States even if you don’t live here but are being sued here.

Plan Your Venue Wisely

As you can tell, you may have some options as to where your bankruptcy case is filed. Different places have different benefits – not only convenience, but also exemption choices.

If you’ve got a choice, make it a wise one.

By |May 23rd, 2013|

About the Author:

I've been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I'm a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.
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