You have to file bankruptcy where your residence is if it is personal. Otherwise you would have to establish residency in a new location first. Bankruptcy is a federal process and always open so local persons will still find out. You also have to notify many people you do business with so there are multiple ways for it to come out other than just filing.
These statements do not constitute legal advice. They are meant to be general in nature, for any specific legal questions you should always seek the counsel of an experienced attorney.
The law says you have to file where you live, so your choice is either file where you live or move. When I think of the many famous people that have filed bankruptcy to resolve their financial lives, I want you to remember that the people who judge you harshly are never going to be the kind of people you can count on when things turn bad. Sometimes it is better to know who your enemies are and who your friends are. Hope this perspective helps!
28 USC 1408 - Venue under title 11:
Except as provided in section 1410 of this title, a case under title 11 may be commenced in the district court for the district—
(1) in which the domicile, residence, principal place of business in the United States, or principal assets in the United States, of the person or entity that is the subject of such case have been located for the one hundred and eighty days immediately preceding such commencement, or for a longer portion of such one-hundred-and-eighty-day period than the domicile, residence, or principal place of business, in the United States, or principal assets in the United States, of such person were located in any other district; or
(2) in which there is pending a case under title 11 concerning such person’s affiliate, general partner, or partnership.
You also want to watch out for which exemptions you will be allowed to use. Best to consult an attorney.
You have to file in the state in which you reside and if your state is divided into districts for federal court purposes it would be most common for you to file in the district in which your home is located. If you happen to live near the boundary between two districts in your state, then by traveling to the neighboring district you may have your case administered in a court not located in your immediate vicinity, but at most it will likely be in the next county over. Where I practice is right on the boundary between the ED and Middle District of NC and since I am used to filing cases in the Eastern District, if I get a case where the debtor lives in the Middle District I will usually file it in the ED as long as they agree. Although technically I am not supposed to do this, I have never had anyone object and move to have the venue changed to the proper district.
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I see you live in Dothan, Alabama; I practice bankruptcy law in Birmingham. I agree that your options are to file in the Division of the Federal DIstrict in which you reside or to change your residence to another Division.
Interesting true story: recently (2008?-ish), a Tuscaloosa lawyer agreed to file his locally well-known Tuscaloosa client a bankruptcy in Anniston, to prevent embarrassment. The Court discovered it and publicly removed the case to Tuscaloosa. The story was reported in the newspapers and legal publications. The client was punished and the lawyer is now disbarred. Be glad you don't live in Huntsville; they list bankruptcy filings in the newspaper with the divorces, DUI's and criminal arrests!!
I agree with the other attorneys that you have to file where you have lived the majority of the previous 180 days. The Bankruptcy Court does not let you "forum shop" to avoid the embarrassment of running into someone you know or getting in the papers. I have had these situations arise in my practice where an attorney or doctor or politician needed to file and didn't want to be embarrassed. Get a good bankruptcy attorney, one that has practiced a while and knows the players and have him or her call the Trustee and see if they can 'specially set" the Section 341 Meeting of Creditors. I have done this where the Trustee will agree to put the case at the very end of the docket or even let us schedule it an hour from the regular docket. The answer isn't to file elsewhere but to work within the system to make things as comfortable as possible. Good Luck!