Should Non-Filing Spouse Retain Her Own Counsel in Husband’s Chapter 13?

07 Jan Should Non-Filing Spouse Retain Her Own Counsel in Husband’s Chapter 13?

A married person can file an individual bankruptcy. However, the non-filing spouse’s life will be impacted. I received questions about this issue regularly. Here is an interested question about this issue and my response:

My husband is having to file for bankruptcy. All debts were accrued prior to our marriage. He also began the process before we married. His attorneys are currently reviewing our income and expenses to determine his payment. At last notice, the amount being discussed seemed unreasonable and made us completely dependent on my income for our expenses. Should I get an attorney to represent my interests?

The underlying issue here – how much of your (non-filing spouse’s) income is being contributed to the household vs. how much are you using for your own debts and individual expenses? Obviously you, as the non-filing spouse, will want to argue that a significant part of your salary should be excluded as not being household income. At the same time, your husband’s attorneys know that the Chapter 13 trustee will try to characterize most or all of your income as household income that should be counted as available to pay debts in the Chapter 13.

The question, therefore – how aggressive will your husband’s lawyers be in protecting your interests. Normally the non-filing spouse does not retain counsel but I don’t think it would be a bad idea for you to do so. Clearly this is one of those situations where your financial future may be significantly impacted by someone else’s bankruptcy.

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Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.

I represent individuals in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases filed in the Northern District of Georgia, which includes Atlanta, Newnan, Gainesville and Rome. I publish several informative web sites, including and an Atlanta bankruptcy blog, Please mention Bankruptcy Law Network when you call.
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