Are Bankruptcy Records Public Information in Colorado?
Yes. Under Colorado State Law and federal laws, bankruptcy records are public records. They are, therefore, subject to examination and duplication by any entity. Additionally, all debtors and creditors automatically get notice of a bankruptcy filing. Third parties may be required to visit the bankruptcy court or use the online access option. However, the kind of information that is accessible is subject to state laws on confidentiality. Personal business secrets, financial information, social security numbers, intellectual property data, personal information about children, and security information directly bearing on the individual or state's safety are inaccessible to third parties.
Record seekers looking for an alternative to government sources may obtain bankruptcy records from third-party websites. These non-governmental websites 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. To obtain bankruptcy case information using third-party sites, record seekers may need to provide:
- A complete name of the debtor involved in the record
- A bankruptcy case number
Bankruptcy in Colorado
Bankruptcy is a federal court procedure available to all persons and corporate entities who have difficulty honoring some or all of their debts. Federal bankruptcy laws allow these individuals and businesses to file for different types of bankruptcy, depending on the peculiarities of the debt, and subject to meeting unique requirements of each type. A debtor could ask the court to liquidate all property and assets and use funds received to pay creditors. Bankruptcy may also require that the debtor and creditor agree on a repayment plan for incurred debts, involving installment payments over an agreed period.
Who Handles Bankruptcy Cases in Colorado?
In Colorado, related cases are handled by the United States Bankruptcy Court located in Denver. The state of Colorado has no authority to hear or decide these matters as federal courts have exclusive subject-matter jurisdiction over all bankruptcy cases.
United States Bankruptcy Court - District of Colorado
721 9th Street
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: (720) 904-7300
Hours: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm or 8:00 am to 4:30 pm for intake and records
Documents required to file for bankruptcy may vary depending on the type of bankruptcy. However, bankruptcy filings generally require the following documents:
- Government-issued means of identification, e.g., social security card or driver’s license
- Tax returns
- Value of debts
- Types of debts
- List of all creditors
- Recent bank account statements
- Retirement account statements
- Credit card and other billing statements
- Evidence of recent earnings, such as income pay stubs
- Proof of real estate fair market value
- Mortgage documents
- Vehicle documents, such as insurance papers, registration documents, proof of value, and car loan documents, where applicable
Although filing for bankruptcy is an available option for all petitioners that meet the requirements, approval is neither immediate nor automatic. In some cases, the court may require information not contained in any of the documents listed above. At other times, a court may entirely dismiss the application. The following are common reasons for bankruptcy dismissals in Colorado:
- Failure to receive credit counseling briefing within 180 days before filing the application. The Bankruptcy Code specifies that the briefing should be delivered by a nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency recognized by the United States Trustee. Interested persons can choose from a list of approved agencies
- Failure to pay filing fees
- Failure to submit social security number (Official Form 121)
- Absence from Meeting of Creditors
- Submitting an incomplete list of creditors
- Omitting required documents from the bankruptcy petition
- Failure to create viable payment plan as required of Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings
Federal bankruptcy law states that from the day of the initial filing, each petitioner has 14 days to submit specific schedules or statements. The courts may also send a notice specifying the deadline for filing each document. Debtors may seek an extension of this deadline by applying to the court before the original timeline expires. Interested persons should note that the court may dismiss the case if the debtor does not timely ask for an extension or submit required documents.
Colorado bankruptcy petitions are filed at the state’s bankruptcy court. Interested persons may obtain records by visiting the court or sending written requests. Bankruptcy court records are also available through the federal judiciary’s PACER, which allows public access to non-confidential bankruptcy records for a fee. Members of the public may also use the Multi-Court Voice Case Information System (McVIS) for phone requests, or contact the National Archive and Records Administration (NARA) for old or closed records. Colorado bankruptcy records include the following information:
- A case number
- The type of bankruptcy filed
- The debtor’s name, address, and other contact details
- Each creditor’s name and contact information
- Debt owed to each creditor
- All sources of the debtor’s income
- Assets and properties owned by the debtor. This includes real property, stocks, and bank accounts
- Type of each debt, such as secured or unsecured
What Do Colorado Bankruptcy Records Contain?
When a requesting party calls for a record, he or she may expect the following information to be available:
- Name of the indebted party and the contact information
- A list of creditors on the bankruptcy filing. The indebted party has the default responsibility of compiling the list of creditors. Otherwise, a lien in the public database will update the record during the discharge process.
- Evidence of the completion of a credit counseling course as mandated by the federal law
- The type of bankruptcy chapter the indebted party has filed for
- The status of the case: the case's status may be open, closed, dismissed, or discharged.
- List of court notices and amendments to the filing.
How to Get Colorado Bankruptcy Records
Bankruptcy cases are federal records. Therefore interested parties have the option of visiting the Bankruptcy Court to view or examine these records. The ground address is at:
721 19th St.
Denver, CO 80202
Like most bankruptcy court premises, there are computer terminals that allow interested parties to access case information. Interested parties must have the necessary information about the case to retrieve the correct file. Among them are the names of the involved party and the number of the case file. If the inquiring party is interested in getting print copies, he or she may walk into the clerk's office to make requests for prints. The office of the court clerk also provides certified copies to eligible parties. In Colorado, the court clerk's office charges a cash-only payment of 10 cents per page. Non-filing parties can use a credit card for payments while presenting a photo ID.
Another way to request records is to call (720) 904-7480. The service costs 50 cents per page. For more information concerning payments, use the fee schedule of the bankruptcy court. Interested parties may also subscribe to the online electronic repository (PACER). Subscription is by opening an account at the site. Most of the time, interested parties are required to pay with a credit card. Occasionally, the system may grant a fee waiver in its commitment to affordably providing access to public records.
Where to Conduct a Free Bankruptcy Case Search in Colorado
One can conduct a free bankruptcy case search in Colorado in the following ways:
- Voice Case Information System (VCIS): Users can access bankruptcy records for free by calling (866) 222-8029.
- Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER): A free bankruptcy case search is possible via the PACER tool when users:
- Spend $30 or less on bankruptcy court records in a quarter
- View case information at any Federal court
- Request court opinions
- Are granted fee exemptions
- Parties to a case (entitled to a free electronic copy of the bankruptcy records)
- Clerk’s Office: Colorado residents can view bankruptcy records for free at the United States Bankruptcy Court District of Colorado Clerk’s Office at no cost. The Office is located at:
United States Bankruptcy Court District of Colorado
721 19th Street
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: (720) 904-7300
How Do I Find Out if My Bankruptcy Case is Closed in Colorado?
When the Bankruptcy Court of Colorado closes a case, it usually means that the owing party has received a discharge notice. A discharge notice prohibits creditors from taking action. The federal rules of procedure on bankruptcy cases provide for mailing copies of a discharge order to creditors, the federal trustee, the indebted party, and their representing attorney. A notice of discharge is also available in the form of a certificate at the court's ground address, all through PACER. Only authorized persons can access discharge certificates.
The District of Colorado Bankruptcy Court also offers a Bankruptcy Noticing Service. Here, all bankruptcy notices get registered electronically and through the National Creditor Registration Service. The court can communicate updates on a case to the involved parties either by using a designated mail address or electronic mail.
Can a Bankruptcy Be Expunged in Colorado?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that imposes that credit companies may not report a case after ten years from filing or discharge. It means that the records should generally disappear from public view after ten years. However, the bankruptcy courts do not have control over who collects credit reports. Bankruptcy cases filed with the courts become a part of the court records. Exceptions to expunging a bankruptcy record include the following:
- If there was a bankruptcy filing under duress
- If an ineligible party made the filing
- If the court dismissed the bankruptcy filing before being heard by the court. Technically, it means that the record does not exist.
What is the Downside of Filing for Bankruptcy in Colorado?
There are disadvantages to filing for bankruptcy, regardless of the relief it brings to debtors. Downsides include:
- Damaged Credit Score: A bankruptcy filing considerably reduces the petitioner’s credit score. The damage also stays on the debtor’s credit report for years.
- Employment Difficulty: In some cases, individuals who file for bankruptcy find it difficult to secure employment. Employers sometimes run credit checks on prospective employees and may deny jobs to persons with unhealthy reports. Sometimes, debtors with poor credit reports may also not receive approval for certain licenses or security clearances.
- Non-Dischargeable Debts: Regardless of the type of bankruptcy filing, Debtors cannot eliminate some types of debt. These include student loans, alimony payments, child support, criminal restitution, and certain fines
- High-Interest Rates: Interest rates are unusually high for debtors who have filed for bankruptcy. Persons in this category find it difficult to access most products where interest rates apply, as repayment rates are extremely uncomfortable.
- Reduced Access to Financial Assistance: Financial lenders tend to ignore persons who have filed for bankruptcy because of their low credit scores. These lenders may assume that bankrupt entities might default on payments.
There are also several advantages to filing for bankruptcy. Debtors can use bankruptcy to get a fresh start on their personal financial lives and business. These persons can also clear all or at least most of their debts. Dischargeable debts include some taxes, medical debt, personal loans, and credit card debt.
In addition, bankruptcy proceedings allow petitioners to quickly solve their debt problems. Especially with Chapter 7 bankruptcy, debtors may liquidate their assets and satisfy their creditors within six months. This short time frame usually allows a debtor to quickly recover and begin repairing their credit score.
What is Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Colorado?
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a type of bankruptcy that allows businesses and corporate bodies to reorganize their debts without closing down. This form of bankruptcy allows Colorado businesses to establish a viable repayment plan with creditors. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is also open to individuals who need to file for bankruptcy but do not meet the requirements for Chapter 13 and Chapter 11.
The Bankruptcy Code does not specify a repayment time frame. Depending on case specifics, resolving Chapter 11 bankruptcy may take as little as 6 months or up to two years. Factors that inform the timeframe may include the amount of debt, type of debt, the creditor’s consent to the repayment plan, and the total number of creditors. Under this type of bankruptcy, creditors may also create a repayment plan if the debtor’s submission is unfavorable.
Upon approval, debtors who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy can renegotiate or shut down all unfavorable contracts or leases, and restructure or reorganize unsecured debt. Debtors may also reorganize tax debt and reduce payment amounts on secured debt.
What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Colorado?
Debtors in Colorado may file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to repay creditors using proceeds from asset and property liquidation. Under this type of bankruptcy, petitioners hand their assets over to the court to oversee sales and repayment. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is also called liquidation bankruptcy.
Unlike Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Chapter 7 does not involve a repayment plan. Debtors must also continue to pay certain non-dischargeable debts, including alimony, taxes, student loans, child support, and personal injury debts. However, Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows debtors to discharge mortgage loans, medical bills, automobile loans, credit card debt, and personal loans. Student loans are also dischargeable if the debtor can prove undue hardship.
All applicants must take a means test to determine eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The means test establishes eligibility by appraising the debtor’s expenses, income, secured debt, and unsecured debt, and comparing it with the state’s median income. In 2019, Colorado’s median household income was $77,127, 20% higher than the national median income recorded at $65,712. In the same year, 31% of all Colorado households had a median income between $50,000 and $100,000, with another 31% earning under $50,000. Generally, approval is more likely for debtors with low disposable income.
What is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Colorado?
Sometimes called the wage earner’s plan, Chapter 13 bankruptcy caters to persons with stable income. This type of bankruptcy is similar to Chapter 11 as it also allows debtors to reorganize their debts by designing a payment plan agreeable to investors, funded by their monthly incomes.
Bankruptcy law specifies debt limits for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Applicants do not qualify if they have unsecured debt of more than $419,275, or secured debt over $1,257,850. Persons who do not meet this requirement must consider Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
According to 11 U.S.C. § 1322(d), Chapter 13 bankruptcy debt repayment may not take more than three years unless the court finds enough cause to stretch the repayment period. However, the court cannot authorize a payment plan longer than five years under any circumstance.
Bankruptcy law also provides restrictions to Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings. Debtors who apply for either type must wait 180 days before another application if one of the following is true:
- The debtor violated a court order
- The debtor asked the court to dismiss the case after a creditor requested that the court suspend the automatic stay
- The court found that the application exploited the bankruptcy system or was fraudulent in another way
What is the Difference Between a Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Colorado?
Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy offer different types of relief for debtors, with varying requirements for each type. Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidates the debtor’s assets and repays debts from the proceeds. Instead of liquidation, Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows debtors and creditors to agree on a repayment plan for some or all debts. This plan sometimes lasts a few years.
The timeframe to conclude both types of bankruptcy also differs. Chapter 7 is usually faster, and may see the debtor’s liquidation completed in less than six months. However, the timeframe for concluding Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayments may stretch up to five years.
Another difference is the requirement for eligibility. Persons who qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy have passed a means test. Most eligible Chapter 7 applicants have disposable income that is lower than the median income for the state. However, to qualify for Chapter 13, the applicant’s unsecured and secured debt must be a maximum of $419,275 and $1,257,850, respectively.
What is Bankruptcy Protection in Colorado?
Bankruptcy protection in Colorado refers to the buffer accorded to debtors who file for bankruptcy. Submitting a bankruptcy application places an automatic stay on all creditors’ attempts to recover debts. The automatic stay means that the creditor cannot request or enforce any repayment agreement or contract, and also supersedes the appeal or enforcement of all judgments to collect debts. An automatic stay also halts foreclosures, evictions, wage garnishments, and the disconnection of utilities. However, the stay will not stop the debtor from paying alimony, child support, and pension loans. Bankruptcy protection also does not prevent criminal proceedings and some tax payments.
While all bankruptcy applications immediately enforce the automatic stay, this protection expires after 30 days if the debtor has made a previous bankruptcy filing within the last one year. To extend the expiry, the debtor, creditor, or any trustee must submit an extension application to the court. In such cases, the court may require proof that the current bankruptcy application was initiated in good faith.
What are Colorado Bankruptcy Exemptions?
Colorado bankruptcy exemptions help debtors maintain ownership of some assets or property instead of losing them all to liquidation or reorganization. In many states, debtors may choose between state and federal bankruptcy exemptions, depending on which group of exemptions is favorable. However, Colorado requires all debtors to compulsorily use state exemptions. The following are Colorado bankruptcy exemptions available to debtors:
- Homestead Exemption
Colorado provides a homestead exemption worth $75,000 if the home is inhabited by the owner or members of the owner’s family. This exemption increases to $105,000 if the person who lives in the home is a disabled or elderly owner, a disabled or elderly person dependent on the owner, or the owner’s disabled or elderly spouse.
- Wage Exemption
Debtors may protect 75% of their weekly disposable earnings or 30 times the value of the current federal minimum wage. Colorado law allows the debtor to exempt the greater of both.
- Personal Property Exemptions
State law provides equity protection in certain properties. However, the limits vary depending on the specific item. For instance, persons can protect up to $2,500 of jewelry and similar items, another $2,500 worth of books, $2,000 worth of necessary clothing, and up to $3,000 for household items, such as home electronics, musical instruments, and furniture.
- Child Support Exemption
Debtors can exempt funds earmarked for child support if the deposits are in a separate account for the child.
- Vehicle Exemption
Colorado allows the exemption of up to two motor vehicles or bicycles, to a $7,500 limit. This limit rises to $12,500 if the debtor, the debtor’s spouse, or a dependent is disabled, or at least 60 years old. This exemption does not apply to travel trailers, motorhomes, snowmobiles, watercraft, all-terrain vehicles, or golf carts.
- Government Benefit Exemptions
State law provides exemptions to certain government benefits. Debtors filing for bankruptcy may not lose the following:
- Workers’ compensation
- Crime victims’ compensation
- Disability benefits not more than $3,000
- Veteran’s benefits, if the debtor is the child or spouse of a serving veteran
- Earned income tax credit
- Government assistance received by the aged, disabled, or blind
- Retirement and Pension Exemptions
This exemption covers tax-exempt retirement accounts, including benefit plans, profit-sharing plans, and 401(k)s. Others include ERISA- approved retirement plans, public employee pensions, and deferred compensation plans, among others
- Business Partnership Property Exemption
Debtors may maintain a property owned by a business partnership.
How Much Does It Cost to File Bankruptcy in Colorado?
The cost to file bankruptcy varies depending on the bankruptcy type and whether the petitioner is filing with the help of an attorney or not. The cost of filing a bankruptcy petition at the Court is fixed for each type of bankruptcy. For instance, Chapter 7 bankruptcy costs $338, while Chapter 13 costs $313. However, attorney fees vary by location, case complexity, and the attorney's expertise.
Petitioners who cannot pay bankruptcy petition filing fees in full can request to pay in installments. Requests can be made to the Court by submitting a completed Application for Individuals to Pay the Filing Fee in Installments (Form 103A) form. Alternatively, a debtor can apply to have the bankruptcy petition filing fee in a chapter 7 case to be waived. As such, they can submit an Application to Have the Chapter 7 Filing Fee Waived (Form 103B) to the Court.