Once you file for bankruptcy, a lot happens behind the scenes within the court system. To keep track of your case and make sure it's moving smoothly towards bankruptcy, you should learn how to check your case online. While you can usually get information about your case from your attorney, sometimes he will charge you for the privilege or otherwise be unreachable. Checking your case yourself is particularly important if you file bankruptcy without an attorney.
The PACER System
Since bankruptcy is a public process, the courts provide open access to all case documents online via the PACER system. PACER stands for Public Access to Court Electronic Records and applies to all federal district, appellate, and bankruptcy cases. Once you're a registered user of the PACER system, you can search for any case you would like.
To gain access to the PACER system, you'll need to register for an account. The process is simple. All you'll need is personal information such as your name, date of birth, address, phone number and email address. Once you've provided the initial information, you'll be prompted to choose a username and password, as well as to provide the answers to security questions. Lastly, you'll need to provide a credit card in the event you incur fees when using the system. While this isn't strictly a requirement for registration, it is a necessary step if you ever intend to access any documents on PACER.
Once you've established an account, log on to access the system. Once inside PACER, you'll find a list of courts categorized by type of court, such as U.S. District Courts or U.S. Bankruptcy Courts. Under each category, you'll see a list of all specific courts, such as the California Central or Florida Northern. To find your bankruptcy case, look under the court where you filed your case. On the top of the screen, hit the "Query" tab. Enter identifying information about your case, such as the case number, your name, Social Security number and the filing date. Once you've entered the information correctly, all the documents related to your case will appear under various headings for you to examine. If you click on the heading labeled "Status," you'll immediately see the current status of your case. Typical statuses include "Awaiting 341 Meeting" or "Awaiting Discharge."
If you've never used the PACER system before, it might not be immediately apparent which clicks will end up triggering charges. Consider visiting the site with an attorney first to fully understand where you can venture without incurring unintended charges.
The standard fee for accessing court documents via PACER is 10 cents per page as of 2015. This fee is capped at $3 for single documents or case-specific reports that exceed 30 pages. Audio files cost a flat $2.40. The good news is that you can avoid fees altogether if you ring up less than $15 in charges per quarter. You won't be charged for simple queries -- only when you actually access documents will you incur charges.