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What are Virginia Bankruptcy Records?

Bankruptcy in Virginia is a legal remedy for bad debts, and a means to protect debtors’ assets while ensuring fairness to creditors. Filing for bankruptcy and any bankruptcy-related case will begin and typically end in a bankruptcy court. Like Virginia courts, bankruptcy courts operate within the state, but these courts have limited jurisdiction as conferred by the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and Rules. Bankruptcy courts also maintain records of proceedings from filing to adjudication, and these records are available to the public. As the process of obtaining bankruptcy records can be nuanced, third-party sites like help requesters to access bankruptcy records easily.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What do Virginia Bankruptcy Records Contain?

Virginia has uniform required documents for every person or entity filing for bankruptcy. All of these documents make up the bankruptcy record. While these documents are generally the same, the content/information contained in bankruptcy records varies. However, requesters can expect to see the following information in a typical bankruptcy record:

  • Filer personal information
  • Schedule of assets (real estate, equities, and securities)
  • Schedule of liabilities
  • Statement of monthly income
  • Income and expenses sheet
  • Creditors’ information
  • Proof of claim
  • Information on a court-appointed trustee

Are Bankruptcy Records Public Information?

Under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), bankruptcy records are public information unless a court order or statute specifically renders such documents confidential. In this case, the judge will order to seal and remove the record from the public domain. Sealing a record by order or statute typically happens when the documents contain sensitive information that poses a threat to a person’s privacy, security, or finances. Sealing also applies when the record contains medical records or information related to a minor.

How to Get Virginia Bankruptcy Records

Suffice to say that there are three ways to obtain bankruptcy records in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The means that a requester chooses generally depends on factors such as convenience, intended use, and exigency.

In-person requests involve going to the bankruptcy court’s physical location during business hours to use public terminals or getting hard copies of the records from the record custodian. However, getting bankruptcy records in person depends on knowing some information—chief among which is the county where the filer resides. Knowing the county of residence is necessary because Virginia organizes the Bankruptcy Courts into districts that preside over bankruptcy filings from specific counties. In turn, these districts are organized into divisions. For example, residents of Fairfax County file for bankruptcy at the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia Bankruptcy Court. The requester will find these directories on the court locations in the Eastern District and the court locations in the Western District helpful.

Mail requests for bankruptcy records are generally suitable when the requester does not have pressing needs for the bankruptcy records or cannot visit the court location in person. Here, the requester prepares a typewritten request for the bankruptcy records citing state and federal open record laws. The requester must also provide sufficient information to aid the record custodian in the efficient identification and retrieval of the record of interest. If a mail request fails to include these aforementioned requites, the record custodian may deny the request. With these known, enclose the request in a self-addressed stamped envelope and attach a money order or check for applicable fees. Send the request to the division or court with jurisdiction over the record (see court locations discussed above).

As courts adopt online record management systems, bankruptcy records are available online. Online requests are generally the fastest ways to obtain records in Virginia. Unlike most public court records, bankruptcy records are not available on local databases maintained by county custodians. The Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) allows requesters to access and retrieve publicly available case information and scanned bankruptcy records documents. To use PACER:

  • Visit the website;
  • Create an account: Creating an account will require the requester’s personal information and credit card details.
  • Log in after creating an account;
  • Select the find a case tab: this will open the PACER case locator;
  • Switch to the bankruptcy tab.

From here, there are two ways to find bankruptcy records. The requester may search by case number, chapter, or name. Upon querying the database, PACER will display results in columns that give the requester a basic overview of the subject’s name, the chapter of bankruptcy, case number, date of filing, date closed, and disposition. Click on the link embedded in the case number to access more information/bankruptcy records. Doing this will display information—of which the most useful information is the docket report because it summarizes all chronological actions taken on the case. Clicking “History/Documents” is also helpful—this is where all filings are kept. Either way, selecting “view document” will display the court document.

Note that the online availability of bankruptcy records in Virginia is dependent on the age of the document. Generally, requesters will have access to bankruptcy records from 2003 until date. For older bankruptcy records before 2003 or records logged on the database—but inaccessible on PACER—the requester has to contact the court where the case was filed.

In all of these means, there are applicable fees as specified by a fee schedule. Generally, PACER charges $0.10 per page (up to 30 pages). It costs $0.50 per page for photocopies and a $31.00 search fee for in-person and mail requests. Besides, if the requester needs certified copies of the record, he/she incurs an additional certification fee of $11.00 per document.

How do I Find Out if My Bankruptcy Case is Closed in Virginia?

A person who has filed for bankruptcy can create a PACER account to monitor the case’s status. Alternatively, they may send an inquiry to the court through the representing attorney or in person.

Can a Bankruptcy Record be Expunged in Virginia?

No, Virginia laws do not make provisions for the expungement of bankruptcy records. However, the filer may submit a petition to seal. The petition must contain cogent reasons before the presiding judge can grant it. Sealing renders the records inaccessible to public requesters who do not have a counter order to unseal. Also, the filer is convinced about sensitive information and cannot obtain an order to seal, then he or she may submit a request to redact.

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