Spouses Can File Bankruptcy Alone

27 Jan Spouses Can File Bankruptcy Alone

Filing bankruptcy is a tough decision to make, and one that married couples in particular find difficult. One of the most frequent questions asked about bankruptcy is whether spouses must file together.

Married couples are not forced to file for bankruptcy together. Though they are allowed to do so, there’s nothing in the law that forces them to both walk down the aisle to the courthouse door.

There are many reasons why it may be a good idea to file without your husband or wife, depending on:

  1. how property is held;
  2. who is liable for the debts; and
  3. whether a bankruptcy filing would negatively affect one spouse.

The spouse who is in debt often worries about the impact of the case on their husband or wife. Will my bankruptcy case show up on my spouse’s credit report? Will it hurt their chances of getting a car loan or mortgage in the future? Will they have to explain what happened to their employer?

The bottom line is this – your bankruptcy case will have absolutely, positively zero negative impact on your husband or wife.

The credit reporting laws provide that each individual has a separate credit file. This means that a married couple’s creditworthiness is a blend of the contents of his file and her file. So a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 will affect future joint applications for credit. It should not, however, result in a notation in the non-filer’s credit record.

Bankruptcy or no, if the spouses are jointly liable on a loan and that loan goes unpaid after a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, it will have an impact on the non filing spouse, but it is the nonpayment that blots the credit record.

Good legal advice is needed to evaluate whether there are non obvious issues that might drag the non filing spouse’s affairs into court.

One final note – if you’re thinking of filing and are married, it’s a good idea to tell your spouse. This isn’t the sort of thing you want to have come up after the fact.

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Cathy Moran, Esq.

I'm a certified specialist in bankruptcy law (California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization) practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 30 years. In addition to practicing bankruptcy law, I train new practitioners at Bankruptcy Mastery.
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