Should Both Spouses Join in Bankruptcy Filing?
- February 26, 2014
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There are many times throughout a lifetime when debts may become overwhelming and individuals may ask themselves should I file bankruptcy? If the answer to that question is a “yes,” a very common follow up question, for couples who are married, is: Do married couples have to file bankruptcy together? The short answer to the aforementioned question is simply, no. Married couples do not have to file for bankruptcy together. Debtors will have the option to file for bankruptcy either singly or jointly with their spouse. The filing fee for filing singly or jointly is exactly the same. Any individual who is contemplating filing a bankruptcy petition and is deliberating about whether to file as a single person or a married couple should consult an attorney for advice on how that decision will impact the lives of the parties involved. For instance, if a debtor decides to file jointly with his or her spouse there will be joint meetings and hearings. Perhaps the most important factor when filing jointly is that all of the spouses’ marital property will be subject to the bankruptcy proceedings. This may have two very different affects on the process. First, if the couple is filing under Chapter 7, there is a risk that anything that is part of the marital property is at risk of liquidation. Conversely, with a larger corpus of property at stake, there is less of a chance that particular variables will be seized to satisfy debts because the bankruptcy trustee has more property to choose from. In addition, if a couple files jointly, all of the marital debt may be discharged – meaning each spouse’s debt and any joint debts will be forgiven. In this situation, both spouse’s credit will be negatively impacted, but both will also enjoy the benefit of getting a new start. On the other hand, if the debtor decides to file as a single person, maybe because only she is battling personal debt issues, her spouse’s property and credit will be protected from the proceedings and will not be at risk of liquidation or seizure. Further, all of the property that the spouse had acquired before the marriage will be shielded from the entire bankruptcy process. In this case, only the spouse who has filed for bankruptcy will suffer the negative credit impact that results from filing for bankruptcy. It should be noted, that even if a spouse files singly, her spouse will still be liable for any joint debt that was accumulated during the marriage. This means that the trustee can still seek repayment for debts from the non-filing spouse. In sum, if you are facing severe financial hardship and feel that bankruptcy may provide you with the relief from your consumer debt issues that you so desperately need, it is imperative that you seek out the advice of experienced legal counsel to advise you on these issues. For more information on if you should file for bankruptcy, the impact that bankruptcy has on your credit, credit card debt, or any other consumer debt issues visit TheNJBankruptcyAttorney.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.