Where to file your bankruptcy case may seem confusing if you moved to a new state in the last few months or years.
The short answer is that someone should file bankruptcy in the state that they have spent the greater part of the last 180 days.
- More simply said, for most people this is for at least 91 days.
Where a bankruptcy is supposed to be filed is controlled by the concept of legal “Venue“, which refers to the proper place for a legal action. However, any federal bankruptcy court has the authority to hear cases, since the jurisdiction is federal. Some courts will turn down or transfer a case if it is filed in an improper venue, although some may not.
It is a good idea to speak to an experienced bankruptcy lawyer sooner, rather than later, and possibly even before you move. Sometimes you are better off filing in the state you are leaving, and you might find that your new state’s exemption laws are less favorable. You can always decide to wait, but you can’t turn back time if you find out that you would have benefited by acting earlier.
If you are in financial trouble and haven’t lived in your state for 91 days, don’t let that stop you from talking to a lawyer now. First, it may take time to prepare your documents and get everything in place to file, and that 91 days will fly by. Second, in a pinch an experienced attorney can usually guide you to help if necessary.
While bankruptcy laws are federal laws, which mean that they are “national”, there are differences in how bankruptcy laws affect someone depending on where they file. Most people aren’t thinking of this before they file bankruptcy.
Most debtors call a lawyer when things get bad financially – but they wait until it is really bad. Sometimes this happens right after someone moves, or perhaps they just felt that they needed to get the move dealt with before tacking their debt problems. Sometimes people are reluctant to start a legal process when they know they are about to move to another state.
See also my article Waiting To File Bankruptcy Until You Move Can Hurt You
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Last modified: January 25, 2012