Filing Bankruptcy While Married
If you’re considering filing bankruptcy while married, you’re not alone. Thousands of married couples are in your situation, and the bankruptcy filing statistics are easily found online, showing you that you’re not alone. The good news is one spouse can file bankruptcy without affecting the credit of the non-filing spouse. This article contains an examination of a few scenarios where you may want to file bankruptcy while married—even if your spouse isn’t filing with you.
One Spouse’s Debt Can Cause Anxiety In A Relationship
If one spouse brings debt to marriage, despite best intentions, the other spouse may feel resentful of the pre-marriage debt. At the very least, as a couple, you deserve a ‘fresh start’ together and that includes being free of debt you did not decide to incur together.
Computing The Means Test In Bankruptcy
If you’re filing bankruptcy while married, you will need to disclose the income of both spouses. This is done for the purpose of passing The Means Test in bankruptcy. The reason is that the federal bankruptcy code uses household income as the starting point for determining whether you qualify for bankruptcy. If you live with your spouse, you’ll need to count their income. The good news is most couples still qualify even when counting the income of their spouse.
Lastly, there is an option to take a Marital Deduction on The Means Test. This option allows you to more accurately show the court the amount of the household income which is being used by the non-filing spouse. Ultimately, this deduction reduces your income for The Means Test. The deduction is easy to calculate and your bankruptcy attorney will walk you through it.
Protecting Your Spouse’s Credit In Bankruptcy
Your spouse’s credit will not suffer due to your bankruptcy. Your bankruptcy will not show on their credit report, nor will it come up when applying for credit of any kind. When one spouse files for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy only affects the debts of the spouse who is filing. In other words, the marriage does not change the effect of bankruptcy from a credit standpoint.
Protecting Your Spouse’s Assets In Bankruptcy
None of your spouse’s own assets will be affected by your bankruptcy. If you have joint assets such as a house or a jointly owned vehicle, those assets can typically be protected in bankruptcy. The good news is only half of their value is counted for your bankruptcy filing when married. Lastly, if your spouse has a 401k or savings account in their name only, those assets are not part of the bankruptcy filing.
Joint Debt In Bankruptcy
If you have joint debt with your spouse, you may want to consider filing together. However, it is still perfectly fine to file without your spouse. One thing to consider is the obligation on a joint debt. Most marital debt obligations are “joint and several” liability. This means that both spouses are obligated for the full balance of the debt. If one spouse file bankruptcy, that spouse will no longer be responsible for the debt; however, the non-filing spouse will still be responsible for the entire balance of the joint debt. If the non-filing spouse decides to file at a later date, that would of course eliminate their obligation on the debt.
Your non-filing spouse may choose to attempt Debt Settlement instead of filing bankruptcy. This is a common way to successfully address a small amount of joint debt or debt that belongs only to the non-filing spouse.
Vehicles In Bankruptcy When My Spouse Isn’t Filing
The only vehicles which must be disclosed as assets are those vehicles that are titled in the name of the individual who is filing. If you transferred title to a vehicle from one spouse to another within four years of filing bankruptcy, that transfer should be disclosed in your bankruptcy filing. The transfer most likely will not negatively affect your bankruptcy filing, but disclosing it is in alignment with the court’s requirements for full disclosure of all transfers to family members and “insiders” (family and friends) within a four-year period preceding your bankruptcy filing.
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