Although our firm practices bankruptcy law in Michigan’s Eastern District (which has courthouses in Detroit, Bay City, and Flint), we frequently receive calls from prospective clients located throughout the state. In many cases, these individuals are surprised to learn that their case would have to be filed in Michigan’s Western District (which has courthouses in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Traverse City, and Marquette), which is problematic because the various federal districts have separate licensing requirements, even when located in the same state. A Detroit bankruptcy attorney will typically not find it to be worthwhile economically to maintain a license in the Western District. Additionally, one must consider whether it will be financially feasible (for the client or the attorney) to have a Detroit bankruptcy attorney drive to Grand Rapids or Marquette for the 341 meeting or for any additional hearings that may be necessary in a given case. Potential bankruptcy filers can save themselves significant time and effort by considering these issues before they begin contacting bankruptcy attorneys.
Each federal district has one or more bankruptcy courts, each of which is responsible for debtors within a certain geographic region. Debtors can file a petition in a district they have been domiciled or had a residence, principal place of business, or principal assets for 180 days. Debtors may also file in a district where an “affiliate,” general partner, or partnership has a pending case. This is not to suggest that the question of where to file will be easy to answer; venue can be a complicated issue in some bankruptcy cases. If you’ve moved in the last three months, have assets in multiple cities, or run a business, you should contact a bankruptcy attorney to discuss the appropriate venue in your particular case.
In most cases, however, you will file in the district you live in; visit http://www.uscourts.gov/links.html and enter either your city or zip code. This will direct you to the web site for your local Bankruptcy Court. For Michigan in particular, the Western District of Michigan’s homepage also provides a map which shows which portion of the state falls within its jurisdiction.