The order did not say how many claims were pending against the order, and that information was not immediately available.
Victims' lawyers estimate there are more than 50 claims.
Advertisement: Story continues belowIn the US, most of the cases come from the Seattle area, stemming from abuses at the now-defunct Briscoe Memorial School near Kent, Washington.
Several cases also involve Edward Courtney, a former brother who taught at O'Dea High School and was principal at St Alphonsus School, both in Seattle.
The order, under the name of Christian Brothers Institute, based in New Rochelle, New York, filed for Chapter 11 in US Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York.
"Deficit spending and litigation costs have forced CBI into this action," the Christian Brothers said in a statement. Trustees of CBI, which has been running an annual seven-figure deficit, voted unanimously to file for bankruptcy, the statement said.
The number of claims pending against the Christian Brothers is not large — especially compared to the Jesuits in the Northwest, who declared bankruptcy in 2009 with about 200 pending claims.
But the Christian Brothers is also a far smaller order, with about 250 brothers serving in the North American province, which covers the US and Canada.
The order was founded in 1802 by Irishman Edmund Ignatius Rice and is known for its education work. In contrast to priests, who are ordained and can celebrate sacraments such as the Eucharist and Reconciliation, brothers are not ordained and cannot administer such sacraments.