Protecting Your Spouse’s Finances In Bankruptcy
The short answer to this question is “yes.” In fact, there may be significant advantages to having one spouse file. However, there are several factors to consider when deciding how to file: how much debt, whether the debt (and the assets) is held jointly or singly, and what types of property are held. It’s important to speak with a knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer to determine your best options.
Couples and families get into financial trouble for a variety of reasons, but many of the reasons are out of the debtor’s control. People have large medical bills, get divorced, lose their jobs or refinance their homes at disadvantageous rates. All these events can push someone into overwhelming debt and the need to consider bankruptcy.
If, for example, the reason for filing bankruptcy involves one person’s medical bills and a credit card from before marriage, then filing bankruptcy without a spouse might be a good option. This will leave the nonfiling spouse’s credit unaffected by the bankruptcy.
If the nonfiling spouse’s name is on some of the debt – for example, a joint credit card – then that spouse may be liable for that part of the debt. If you are thinking about filing bankruptcy without your spouse, it is probably a good idea to remove the spouse from joint credit cards before submitting a bankruptcy petition. Otherwise, the creditor (credit card company) will look to your spouse to pay the debt once the bankruptcy filing is completed.
Or you may wish to reaffirm the debt with the credit card company and continue to pay. In this case, a bankruptcy should not affect your spouse’s filing.
Another consideration is the income of the nonfiling spouse. If the spouses are living together, the nonfiling spouse’s income and expenses will need to be listed on the bankruptcy petition even if that person is not part of the bankruptcy filing.
At our law firm, our attorneys urge nonfiling spouses to get copies of their credit reports within a few months after their spouses’ bankruptcy filings are complete. This will allow the nonfiling spouse to verify that their credit rating has not been affected by the other person’s bankruptcy or take corrective action if the credit report inaccurately describes the bankruptcy filing.
Having one spouse file bankruptcy can open the door to a better relationship. Financial problems are among the biggest stressors. If they can be resolved through the bankruptcy of one of the parties, everyone benefits.
People should not hesitate to explore the option of having one spouse file bankruptcy. They may be able to discharge or reorganize their debts and protect their spouses’ credit rating at the same time. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer can advise about the best course of action.