Navigating the bankruptcy court system in California can be confusing and frustrating. Usually, the first step to filing a bankruptcy is to know which courthouse to file in. The United States federal bankruptcy court system exercises exclusive jurisdiction over all bankruptcy cases. This means that you must find the proper federal bankruptcy court to file your bankruptcy in. You cannot walk into your local state courthouse to file your bankruptcy petition.
In California, the bankruptcy court system is separated into four districts, based on geography. There is the Northern District, the Central District, the Eastern District, and the Southern District. You will file your bankruptcy petition in the district and courthouse that covers the county your permanent residence address is situated in.
The Northern District Bankruptcy Court system services the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Menocino, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Sonoma. There are four courthouses in the Northern District, located in San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Rosa, and San Jose.
The Central District of California has the distinction of being the largest Bankruptcy Court in the United States. Currently, there are five courthouses in the Central District, located in Los Angeles, Riverside, Santa Ana, San Fernando Valley, and Santa Barbara. The Central District services the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.
The Eastern District of California covers the counties of Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba. The three courthouses for the Eastern District are located in Sacramento, Fresno, and Modesto.
The Southern District only has one courthouse, located in San Diego. It services all of the San Diego and Imperial counties.
This brief outline of the bankruptcy court system in California should help you identify which court to file you bankruptcy petition in.