By Ryan C. Wood
Unfortunate circumstances can happen at anytime and anywhere, even when you are working and living outside of the United States. In today’s economy more and more United States citizens are working in other countries. So if you have moved and are working in a foreign country can you file for bankruptcy? If so, where can the bankruptcy case be filed?
Bankruptcy Code 11 U.S.C. Section 109, Venue, provides:
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, only a person that resides or has a domicile, a place of business, or property in the United States, or a municipality, may be a debtor under this title.
The most common way to determine what the proper venue to file bankruptcy in is look at where you reside, live or have a domicile in that jurisdiction. Typically venue is determined by where you have lived the most during the 180 days prior to the filing of the case.
Keep in mind that while you may be able to file bankruptcy in a state you moved to recently, over 90 days ago at least, you most likely will not be able to use that state’s exemptions. If you have recently moved make sure you communicate this to your attorney so they can evaluate which state’s exemptions you can use to protect your assets. If you have lived outside of the United States for more than two years, determining which exemptions can be used will be extremely complicated.
If you have not lived in the area for the greater of the 180 days prior to the case being filed, then next possible way to determine which venue you may file bankruptcy in is where your principal assets are located or where your place of business it located. Your business could be in San Jose, California and you live in Modesto, California. Do you file in the Eastern District of California because that is where you live, or file in the Northern District of California because that is where your business is located? In theory you could file in both districts.
The last possible way to determine proper venue is if you own or have property in that jurisdiction. Some courts have ruled that property can even be money on deposit with a bank in that jurisdiction. What is considered property that rises to the level of permitting you to file bankruptcy in that venue is determined differently by different courts.