Where Do I File Bankruptcy?

The great majority of people that file for bankruptcy relief will end up filing in the city or county where they are living at the time that their case is filed with the Court.  However, there are possible exceptions in which a case can be filed, or even must be filed, in a different location.   In bankruptcy terminology, the rule governing where your bankruptcy case must be filed is referred to by lawyers as the “venue” for case filing.  Experienced attorneys understand how venue works and will be able to use it to your advantage.


As a general rule, the proper venue where your case must be filed in the federal district where you have lived during the three months prior to the date that your case is filed.  More precisely, venue is proper in the district where you have resided for the greater part of the 180-day period before your case is filed.  For example, if you lived in San Diego for three months, then moved to a different state for two months, you would still have to file in the Southern District of California (covering San Diego County), since you will have lived in San Diego for the greater part of the 180-day period prior to your bankruptcy filing.


There is another commonly used procedure that your lawyer can utilize to establishing venue in your matter.  Federal law provides that your case can also be filed in the federal district where you own property (real estate) at the time of your case filing, even if you are currently live in a different place.  So if you move from San Diego to another state but you still own property in San Diego, you can always file in San Diego, even if you have been living in a different state for years.


Keep in mind, though, that venue does not determine what property you keep when you file bankruptcy.   The amount of assets that you are allowed to retain when you file for bankruptcy is determined not by venue but rather by your exemptions.   Depending on the circumstances, venue may be in San Diego, California, but your exemptions could be governed by a different state other than California, or vice versa.  Always discuss your situation with an attorney, preferably as early as possible, in order to better plan your case and ensure a smooth filing.