Can I File Bankruptcy without My Spouse?
If you're married and considering bankruptcy protection, you're probably wondering about your filing options. The short answer is that married people can choose to file either singly or jointly – the decision usually depends on what types of debts each spouse has.
To consult with a bankruptcy lawyer about whether a single or joint filing would work best in your situation, simply fill out the form below to arrange a free, no-obligation bankruptcy consultation today.
Single Vs. Joint Bankruptcy Petitions
In order to determine whether a single or joint bankruptcy petition would work best in your circumstances, it's important to understand how various types of debt work in the two types of bankruptcy protection. Here's a look.
- Laws in your state: One of the most important factors that might impact your filing decision is how the laws in your state work. In community property states (which are more common), debts are generally divided according to which spouse incurred them (e.g. if you have credit card debt and your spouse's name is not on that card, the debt is solely your responsibility). In equitable distribution states, though, both spouses are generally held equally responsible for debts incurred during the marriage, no matter which spouse incurred them.
- Types of debt: If you and your spouse have joint debts (meaning either that one spouse co-signed for the other or that the debt is in both spouse's names), a single filing would leave the non-filing partner responsible for paying the debts. If, however, the debts are held by either of the spouses individually, a single filing would not lead to the other spouse's being responsible for them. This also varies by the type of bankruptcy filed - Chapter 13 bankruptcy typically protects co-signers, while Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not.
- Your household income: If you're considering a single bankruptcy filing because one spouse's income would qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy but your combined incomes would not, be sure to consult with a bankruptcy lawyer. In many cases, the bankruptcy court may consider your entire household income (that of both spouses), even if only one spouse files a petition.
- Protecting your spouse's credit: One common reason to avoid a joint bankruptcy filing may be to try to protect one spouse's credit rating. This may work, but consider your reasons for protecting your spouse's credit: if you're hoping to qualify for a major loan in the near future (such as for a home mortgage), you may be required to list both spouse's credit reports, which would mean that the bankruptcy filing would show up on the application regardless.
Learn More about Joint and Single Bankruptcy Filings from a Lawyer
Because of the complexities (and state-to-state differences) involved in bankruptcy law and the various types of debts married couples can have, many people choose to get the advice of a bankruptcy lawyer before making filing decisions.
Don’t risk making the wrong move on such a major financial decision – take advantage of this opportunity to speak with a bankruptcy attorney in your area about your options today.