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Texas Bankruptcy Records
What is Bankruptcy in Texas?
Bankruptcy in Texas covers a series of legal proceedings through which individuals or entities may seek relief from debts owed to creditors. Bankruptcy cases fall under the purview of federal courts. Persons or entities in Texas who can not pay their creditors may file for bankruptcy at the bankruptcy court in the federal judicial district where they reside.
- The United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Texas
- The United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Texas
- The United States Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Texas
- The United States Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Texas
In line with Section 107 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, federal courts maintain bankruptcy records and permit public access to unsealed court records. These records can be obtained by making mail, telephone, or in-person requests. Interested persons can also use a federal public records system to view and download bankruptcy records online. Furthermore, third-party websites can help retrieve bankruptcy records.
Under the Title 11 of the United States Code (the Bankruptcy Code), persons or entities may file for bankruptcy in Texas depending on the circumstance and desired outcome of the case. For instance, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case involves the liquidation of the debtor’s assets. In contrast, Chapter 11 or 13 bankruptcy cases enable the debtor to reorganize assets and create a plan to pay off creditors. Irrespective of the type of bankruptcy case, debtors are mostly advised to file for bankruptcy as a last resort.
How Do You Qualify for Bankruptcy in Texas?
Persons or entities can qualify for bankruptcy depending on the type of bankruptcy case. For example, the 11 U.S.C. § 109(e) enables debtors to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy if their secured and unsecured debts are less than $1,184,200 and $394,725, respectively. Note that the amounts may differ with respect to changes in the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index.
On the other hand, debtors can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas if their disposable income falls below the median income for the state. Debtors must take a “means” test to determine their disposable income level. In contrast, there is no limit on the amount of debt before a debtor can file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Texas.
What Do Texas Bankruptcy Records Contain?
Anyone who requests a Texas bankruptcy record from the federal courts can obtain personal information such as the debtor’s name, address, and contact details; the attorney’s name and phone number (if any); and the names and addresses of creditors. The record will also comprise financial information including schedules, amounts owed to creditors, the debtor’s assets, and current income sources. Lastly, relevant case information will be included, such as:
- The case number and case status
- The chapter filed for the case
- The filing and disposition dates
- The judge’s and court’s name
- The closing, discharge, or dismissal order
- Information on the 341 meetings of creditors
- Proof of claim deadlines
Are Texas Bankruptcy Records Public Information?
Bankruptcy records are deemed public records by federal law and, thus, accessible to any member of the public who makes a request to the clerk’s office or through other acceptable channels. However, certain parts of a record are regarded as sensitive information and are sealed or redacted from public viewing. Sometimes, this sealing may occur at the point of a petition’s filing or submission of financial documents, as directed by 11 U.S.C. 112, when it involves:
- Social security numbers
- Names of minor children
- Financial account numbers
- Tax identification numbers
- Birth dates
Other times, it can occur on the court's order or upon request of a person who is or was directly involved in the petition. Usually, this happens when there is a possibility of identity theft, fraud, or the release of private company information.
How to Get Texas Bankruptcy Records
Bankruptcy records are maintained by the bankruptcy courts and NARA’s (National Archives Records Administration) Federal Records Centers (FRCs). Records in the court's custody are usually pending and recently closed files, whereas NARA holds older bankruptcy records (cases that have been closed for over 15 years). Bankruptcy files preserved by the courts can be inspected or copied online, by mail, via telephone, and in-person:
- Records can be obtained by logging in to PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). There is a nominal fee payable to use the service. The case details required to conduct a search, view, or print records include a name, case number, tax identification number (ITIN), or social security number (SSN). With PACER, requesters can find information on cases filed on or after December 1, 2003. However, records before this date may be unavailable to the public, except for docket information and sheets, but remain accessible to members of the claim.
- To access records by telephone, an interested person must call the Multi-Court Voice Case Information System (McVCIS) on (866) 222-8029. This service is available 24/7 and makes it possible to hear basic information from a bankruptcy case. Requesters only have to dial the number above, input the specific court’s extension, and provide the case number, debtor’s name, social security number, or tax identification number to run searches. To know the extension of a particular court, an individual can select the court’s name on the Court CM/ECF Lookup page.
- The clerk’s office receives inspection and copying requests for bankruptcy records. Requesters must query the office where the bankruptcy petition was filed to obtain records. These documents can be reviewed in-person at the public access terminals at no charge, and or copied at a $.10 per page fee. Individuals can also ask the clerk’s office to make photocopies, but it costs $.50 per page. Anyone who wants to certify a record must pay $11per document. A full schedule of costs can be found via the courts’ websites (for example, the Western Bankruptcy Court costs). Note, however, that the courts have matching fees. Members of the public can also send mail requests to the clerk’s office to obtain bankruptcy records. The copy fees are the same as those charged for in-person requests.
- The courts may provide request forms to assist the public in obtaining records. For instance, the Southern Bankruptcy Court provides interactive copy and request forms to make in-person, mail, and even email requests.
Record seekers may also obtain bankruptcy records from 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
The Fort Worth Federal Records Center stores closed records (cases filed before March 1, 2001) for the Texas bankruptcy courts. Individuals can obtain copies from the Center with the NATF Form 90 or through the clerk’s office. The FRC accession number, location number, and agency box number must be provided to successfully fetch copies; interested persons can obtain this information from the clerk’s office. A request for retrieval made to the clerk’s office costs $64 for the first box and, if requesting more than one box, $39 for each other box.
How Do I Find Out if My Bankruptcy Case is Closed in Texas?
A bankruptcy case may be closed in Texas when court proceedings and payments to creditors have been completed. In other instances, the court may close the case if the debtor defaults on a court order or procedure. Either way, debtors will know that their cases have been closed because the court sends a notice to them or their attorney. However, it is also possible to find out a case’s status by calling the clerk’s office that received the bankruptcy petition, or using electronic records systems like PACER or McVCIS, as explained above.
Can a Bankruptcy Be Expunged in Texas?
The U.S. bankruptcy code (11 U.S.C. § 105(a)) permits judges to issue orders, processes, or judgments necessary to effect the code’s provisions. Although no expungement procedure is mentioned in the code, this unfettered authority allows the courts to accept motions to expunge or redact from case participants. However, because bankruptcy records are primarily public information, an expungement is quite rare and can only be permitted in extraordinary circumstances, such as when there is an issue of fraud or when there is an incorrect filing (11. U.S.C. 107).
What Type of Bankruptcy Should You File in Texas?
Debtors can determine the type of bankrupt chapter to file depending on the outcome of the means test. The Bankruptcy court uses the mean test to analyze the debtor’s income and expense and determine if the debtor will file for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. An individual debtor can file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case if the debtor’s average income for six months before the filing is below the minimum median income for Texas.
Where and How to File for Bankruptcy in Texas?
In Texas, debtors can file for bankruptcy at the following bankruptcy courts listed below:
Texas Eastern Bankruptcy Court
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
211 West Ferguson Street
Tyler, TX 75702
Phone: (903) 590-1212
Texas Northern Bankruptcy Court
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
1100 Commerce St.
Suite 12 A24
Dallas, TX 75242
Phone: (800) 442-6850
Texas Southern Bankruptcy Court
P.O. Box 61010
Houston, TX 77008
Phone: (713) 250-5115
Texas Western Bankruptcy Court
P.O. Box 1439
San Antonio, TX 78295
Irrespective of the type of bankruptcy case, debtors can file for bankruptcy via the following general steps:
- Debtors must collate the necessary financial documents to know the current state of finance. These include documents such as credit reports, tax returns for the last two years, a copy of vehicle registration, other files detailing the debtor’s assets, income, and debts.
- The concerned party must take a credit counseling course at least six months before filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case at any of the bankruptcy courts in Texas*. Also, debtors must take a credit counseling course at a Department of Justice-approved agency.
- Debtors must fill out different bankruptcy forms based on the Chapter of the bankruptcy petition. Furthermore, debtors must input information on all properties, assets, and debts. In some cases, a debtor might hire a lawyer to help out with filling out the documents.
- Complete the bankruptcy form and attach the necessary documents. Debtors must print out the completed petition form in a single-sided format and attach a credit counseling certificate. In addition, bankruptcy courts require documents showing proof of income for the last six months. Debtors may also file an application for a fee waiver for the bankruptcy case.
- Debtors must submit the completed documents in person at the bankruptcy court where the individual or business is domiciled
Note that this is not a requirement for filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.
What are the Downsides of Filing for Bankruptcy in Texas?
Parties who file for bankruptcy in Texas may experience downsides, such as a lower credit score due to the bankruptcy petition. For instance, persons who file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy may see a negative mark on their credit score for ten years from the filing date. In comparison, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case will incur a negative mark on a credit score for seven years from the filing date.
In addition, debtors may experience the following downsides of filing for bankruptcy;
- In terms of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, debtors may lose non-exempt properties which a bankruptcy trustee sells. In addition to this, debtors may lose secured properties and assets not completely covered by Texas bankruptcy exemptions;
- Co-signers to a loan are also liable to repay the debtor’s personal debt unless they file for bankruptcy protection;
- Persons under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may deal with debt repayment plans that last up to five years;
- Debtors are not eligible for a mortgage or car loans;
In contrast, filing for bankruptcy provides debtors with the following benefits:
- A Chapter 7 bankruptcy provides debtors with a complete relief from all debts owed;
- Properties and assets are protected and exempt from collection by creditors;
- Bankruptcy cases under Chapter 7 have a short timeframe within three to six months;
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan enables debtors to repay debts over a long time.
What is Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Texas?
Chapter 11 bankruptcy, also referred to as reorganization bankruptcy, is a formal process that enables companies or individuals to declare bankruptcy and create a plan to pay off debts without selling off assets or shutting down operations. Filing a Chapter 11 proceeding under the Bankruptcy Code provides companies with the opportunity to restructure their finances to pay the debt. A chapter 11 bankruptcy plan is often the preferred option if the entity or individual is more valuable in operation than when liquidated. Companies and individuals may file for a chapter 11 bankruptcy when there is a reduction in cash flow or reduced demand for the company’s products and services.
Who Can File for Bankruptcy Chapter 11 in Texas?
Individuals and entities can voluntarily file for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy when they do not want to liquidate their assets or when the debt profile is above the requirement under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. On the other hand, creditors can also force a company or individual to file for chapter 11. Under 11 U.S.C. §§ 109(g), 362(d)-(e), bankruptcy courts can force a debtor to file for bankruptcy if three or more creditors petition the court. 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.
How to File a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Texas?
Debtors or eligible creditors can file a petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the divisional office serving the jurisdiction of the debtor’s residence or business. Note that the court does not appoint a bankruptcy trustee in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. Therefore, debtors may remain in possession of their assets unless the court deems them dishonest or irresponsible in maintaining the assets.
Debtors must file the following documents to the divisional office in the region where their residence or business is located:
- A completed voluntary petition in line with the format of Form B 101 of the Official Forms;
- Schedule A - J Forms of liabilities and assets (for individual debtors);
- Schedule A/B, D, E/F, G, and H Forms of assets and liabilities (for business or company debtors);
- A statement of financial affairs (for business or company debtors);
- Statement of financial affairs ( for individual debtors);
- A schedule of unexpired leases and executory contracts (for individual debtors);
- A schedule of unexpired leases and executory contracts (for business and company debtors).
In addition to the forms mentioned above, debtors can obtain the full list of all required documents via the B 2000 Forms.
What are the Benefits of Filing a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Texas?
Filing a chapter 11 bankruptcy in Texas comes with the following upsides:
- Business debtors get to remain in operation and maintain their customer base;
- Debtors can obtain lower rates on previously-high interest loans after filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy;
- Under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, debtors can extend unsecured debt payments up to five years;
How Long Does a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Last on Record?
In Texas, a chapter 11 bankruptcy record can remain on credit reports for up to ten years after filing the bankruptcy.
What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Texas?
In Texas, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a series of legal steps in which the court liquidates a debtor’s assets to settle debts owed to creditors. Bankruptcy courts in Texas appoint a bankruptcy trustee responsible for selling the debtor’s assets and distributing the proceeds of the liquidation to creditors. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is one of the most common types of bankruptcy since it enables debtors to discharge unsecured debts, such as medical bills, income tax debts, and personal loans. More so, individual debtors can also discharge student loan debts if the court finds sufficient evidence of undue hardship. However, filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas does not exempt debtors from the following debts:
- Spousal support;
- Child support;
- Personal debts incurred from accidents caused by intoxication;
- Court fees and penalties.
Under Chapter 7 Bankruptcy rules, not all properties or assets are liquidated to pay creditors. For instance, Texas bankruptcy exemptions allow debtors to keep the following assets and properties:
- Homesteads less than one acre in any location. Also, the sales proceeds from the landed property are exempt from liquidation; Property 41.001, 41.002
- Personal properties, such as sports and athletic equipment, burial plots, and church benefits;
- Insurance-related benefits include Texas employee uniform group insurance and life insurance of which the debtor is a beneficiary. Insurance 3.50-4(11)
Who Can File for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Texas
Only individual debtors can file for chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas. Individuals may consider filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy under the following circumstances:
- When there is little to no disposable income;
- The amount of debt is close to or more than half of the annual income;
- The debtor’s average monthly income falls below the state’s median income level;
- It could take at least three to five years before the debtor can pay off the debt.
How to File a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Texas?
Individual debtors filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy must follow the steps outlined below:
- Texas Bankruptcy Courts require debtors to register and complete a credit counseling course at a registered agency. Upon completing the course, debtors must present the certificate alongside the requirements documents for filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
- Debtors must fill out the necessary documents at the local Bankruptcy Court;
- At the Bankruptcy Court, debtors must pay a $335 fixed filing fee. In addition to this, debtors may pay $15 to $20 to the Bankruptcy trustee - the trustee may waive the fee. Also, debtors who choose to hire an attorney may pay attorney fees from $900 to $2,000.
What are the Benefits of Filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Texas
Individuals who file a chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas state may gain the following benefits:
- Under a Chapter & bankruptcy, the courts prevent creditors from possessing the debtor’s assets and properties.
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases have a 94.3 percent success rate, as opposed to other types of bankruptcy claims;
- Debtors and creditors can get verdicts and settlements within three to six months;
- There is no minimum debt requirement when filing for a chapter 7 bankruptcy.
How Long Does a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Last on Record?
A chapter 7 bankruptcy record remains on credit score reports ten years from the filing date in Texas.
What is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Texas?
Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Texas, a debtor agrees to repay all or part of their debt to creditors over a 3 to 5-year duration. Chapter 13 bankruptcy enables debtors to repay creditors from their future income. No doubt, filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy is an attractive option for debtors since it protects their assets from liquidation. Therefore, persons filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy get to keep their homes as long as they can pay the mortgage. In addition, debtors get to pay back taxes and stop interest from accumulating on tax debts. Under this type of bankruptcy, debtors gain more control over secured assets like houses and cars.
Who Can File a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Texas?
First, non-individual debtors like corporations and LLCs can not file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Texas. Only individuals with the financial means for making regular monthly payments are eligible to file under Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Nevertheless, debtors must prove their financial strength by disclosing their source of income to the bankruptcy court within two weeks of filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Individual debtors are eligible to file for chapter 13 bankruptcy if their unsecured debts are not above $419,275. Also, the secured debts, such as mortgages, are not above $1,257,850. Debtors can utilize the following sources of income to fund a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan:
- Rents and royalties
- Self-employment income
- Retirement benefits;
- Workers’ compensation benefits;
- And sale proceeds from selling properties.
How to File a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Texas?
Individual debtors can file for chapter 13 bankruptcy in Texas with or without the aid of an attorney. Chapter 13 bankruptcies filed without the aid of an attorney have a low success rate. With the aid of an attorney, debtors can collate the necessary documents for filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Texas. In addition to this, debtors must provide the following information:
- Documents detailing the debtor’s source(s) of income;
- List of all creditors and debt owed;
- A detailed list of the debtor’s monthly expenses and liabilities;
- The debtor’s tax information.
In addition to this, debtors must attend a verified credit counseling course at an approved agency. Debtors can find the nearest credit counseling agency in Texas on this online list. After filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, debtors will propose a debt repayment plan. Furthermore, the bankruptcy judge will vet and approve the debtor’s repayment plan in line with the Bankruptcy Code’s guidelines.
What are the Benefits of Filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Texas?
In Texas, filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy features the following upsides:
- Debtors may retain all properties, including non-exempt properties if they can afford the repayment plan;
- Creditors are unable to collect the debtor’s properties or assets;
- Co-signers to the debtor’s loan are exempt from repaying the loan;
- Debtors have more time to repay unsecured debts without losing their homes or cars;
- Lastly, debtors can file a chapter 13 at any time, unlike in chapter 7 bankruptcies.
In Texas, chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on record for seven years after the filing date.
What is the Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Texas?
- Debtors under Chapter 7 bankruptcy may liquidate their assets and properties to pay off debts, while chapter 13 bankruptcy enables debtors to retain both exempt and non-exempt debts.
- In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there is no minimum debt required. In contrast, debtors under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy must not have secured or unsecured debts above $1,257,850 or $419,275, respectively.
- Debtors who file for chapter 7 bankruptcy get to keep all wages and earnings after the filing date. In contrast, Chapter 13 bankruptcy debtors must repay all or part of unsecured debts over three to five years.
What is Bankruptcy Protection in Texas?
Bankruptcy Protection (also referred to as an “Automatic Stay”) refers to a legal process where a bankruptcy court prevents creditors from claiming a debtor’s properties or assets. It prevents actions and appeals on judgments passed on a debtor’s assets before filing a bankruptcy petition. Thus, bankruptcy protection protects a debtor’s assets until the bankruptcy case is over.
What are Texas Bankruptcy Exemptions?
In Texas, bankruptcy exemptions protect the debtor’s properties and assets during bankruptcy. Texas residents may opt to choose federal bankruptcy exemptions or state bankruptcy exemptions. However, debtors are not allowed to use both federal or state bankruptcy exemptions. Most debtors prefer to use Texas bankruptcy exemption laws due to benefits, such as the homestead exemption. Under the state exemption law, debtors can retain their homes based on the property size and location.
The state bankruptcy exemption law, for example, does not exempt properties situated on more than ten acres in the city. In addition, debtors can retain the proceeds from a sold property for at least six months after the sale. Note that Texas bankruptcy exemption laws cover properties that serve as the debtor’s primary residence. Thus, rental properties are not protected under Texas bankruptcy exemption laws.
Furthermore, personal properties, such as jewelry, clothes, motor vehicles, and furniture, are also exempt from bankruptcy. For a single debtor, the total value of exempted properties must not exceed $50,000. On the other hand, a joint filing for bankruptcy in Texas may double the total value of exempted properties to $100,00
In contrast, debtors may file for bankruptcy using federal bankruptcy exemption laws to take advantage of the wild card exemption rule. The wild card exemption rule enables debtors to exempt any preferred property.
What are the Other Types of Bankruptcy in Texas?
Besides filing for a Chapter 7, 11, or 13 bankruptcy in Texas, persons or entities can also file for a Chapter 12 bankruptcy. First used in 1980 to reorganize farmer’s debts, the Chapter 12 bankruptcy petition specifically caters to farmers and fishermen. Eligible persons may file for Chapter 12 bankruptcy to prevent loss of properties and assets.