Where Should Bay Area Residents File Bankruptcy?

imagesYou Generally File Bankruptcy Where You Live

When you decide to file bankruptcy, there are a few rules to know about where you can file your case.  Generally, you file bankruptcy in the county where you live.  There are four bankruptcy courts in the Bay Area: Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Rosa.  For Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, the bankruptcy court is in downtown Oakland.  The San Francisco court covers the counties of San Francisco and San Mateo.  Chapter 7 cases in Marin County are required to be filed in the Santa Rosa Bankruptcy Court.

Three Ways to Determine Filing Locaton

There are three ways to determine where you may file your bankruptcy case.

  • First, you may file where you have resided for the greatest part of the last 180 days (six months). So if you have lived in a county for over three months, you can file in that county.
  • Second, if you are self-employed or own a small business, you may file bankruptcy in the county where you have had your business for the greatest part of the last 180 days.
  • Third, you may file in the county where your principal asset is located for the greatest part of the last 180 days.  Your principal asset can be anything, but it is usually a house or land.  So this rule generally means that you can file bankruptcy in the county where you own property.

Most of the time there is only one place that you are allowed to file under the rules.  It is generally under the first rule, which is you file where you have lived for at least three months.  If you move to a new county, and you want to file bankruptcy there, then you have to wait until you have lived there for three months.  If you want to file before three months, then you have to file back in the county you lived in before, because that is where you have lived for the greater part of the last six months.

Qualifying in Several Counties

Sometimes you may qualify to file in several different counties under the rules, and you may choose which county you want to file in.  For example, if you own a rental property in Alameda County, but you live in San Francisco in a rented apartment, you could chose to file in San Francisco where you live, or you could file in Oakland where your rental property is located.

Hire a Local Attorney

It is important to hire a local attorney that lives and works in the district where you will be filing.  This is because there are sometimes big differences in how the courts operate, and if your attorney is not familiar with the local rules of that court you can have problems with your case.

For example, The Northern District of California includes four bankruptcy courts: Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco and Santa Rosa. All of these courts operate under very similar rules, and it is common for local attorneys to file cases in all four of these courts.  However, Vallejo, Fairfield, and other cities in Solano County are actually part of the Eastern District of California, and the bankruptcy court for them is located in Sacramento.  Most Bay Area attorneys do not file bankruptcy cases in Sacramento.  The local rules and procedures in Sacramento can be very different from the ones in the Bay Area, so it is important to have an attorney who knows those rules.

The Cline Law Group serves the counties of San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo and Contra Costa.  Please contact us if you’d like to schedule a free consultation to discuss the best place for you to file bankruptcy.

Posted on July 10, 2014 |