Where to File Your Bankruptcy Case: Venue

Where Should Bay Area Residents File Bankruptcy?
By Andrew J. Christensen
July 10, 2014

The general rule is that you file your bankruptcy case in the county where you live. However, sometimes it gets more complicated than that if you have multiple properties, or own a business, or recently moved.

There are three rules for determining the bankruptcy court where your case will be filed.

1. You may file where you live. You may file in the place where you have lived for the greatest part of the last six months (180 days). This means that if you have lived in the county for over three months, you qualify to file your case in that county.
2. You may file where you own a business. If you have a small business or are self employed, then you may file bankruptcy in the county where your business has been located for the greatest part of the last 6 months.
3. You may file where your primary assets are located. You may file where your principal asset (usually a home or rental property) has been located for the greater part of the last six months. This rule essentially means that you can file in the county where you own property.

In the Bay Area, there are four bankruptcy courts: Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Rosa. The Oakland bankruptcy court is for Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The San Francisco court is for the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin. The San Jose court serves the counties of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito.

How to choose when you qualify for multiple locations.

If you qualify to file bankruptcy in several different counties based on the rules described above, then you may choose one of them. This is most common when you live in one county, but own a business or a rental property in another county. Choosing the county may have important consequences in your case, because there are sometimes different policies, procedures, or local rules. The trustees and judges are different for each court location, and it is not uncommon for there to be significant differences in procedure and opinion on certain legal issues. It is for this reason that it is important to have a local attorney who is familiar with all the judges and trustees in the district, and is up to date on the most current legal rulings and court orders that can affect your case.

I have filed thousands of bankruptcy cases in the Bay Area bankruptcy courts, and I am familiar with all of the judges, trustees, local rules, and the most recent judicial orders and case law. My work on the Executive Committee of the county bar association keeps me informed of all recent developments in local bankruptcy law and practice, and the Committee helps to spread that knowledge to bankruptcy attorneys all across the Bay Area.

If you think you may qualify for filing in multiple bankruptcy courts, then make an appointment to come see me for a free consultation to talk about the issues in your case and how the choice of location can affect your case.