Do Both Spouses Have to File for Bankruptcy Together?

While most married people think that if they file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, they must do so with their spouse.  That is not true.

Whether one spouse or both file a bankruptcy petition, it’s their choice. It is not uncommon for one spouse to have most of the debt in his or her name only, in which case an individual filing would be more appropriate. However, if both spouses have a significant amount of debt, they should file together.

Sometimes I meet with only one spouse because the other spouse is not willing to file for bankruptcy.  In these situations, one spouse to file the bankruptcy petition and obtain necessary relief from the bankruptcy court.

There are also some additional issues that need to be considered. Initially, if only one spouse is filing and the couple is residing together, the other spouse’s income may be relevant for the purpose of household income as reflected on Schedule I, resulting in disposable income reflected on Schedule J, and that spouse’s income may also be relevant for the means test.

As far as the means test, it is necessary to determine whether there is a presumption that there is enough disposable income available to give unsecured creditors sufficient payment under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan, such that permitting a Chapter 7 could be considered an abuse of discretion. But even if the means test is passed, and no presumption of abuse arises, or, alternatively, if this is a non-consumer bankruptcy and the means test is not even required, abuse can still be found given the totality of the circumstances. The income and assets of the non-filing spouse are important in both those considerations. If the debtor has legal rights to share in the income and assets of a non-filing spouse or even if the practice has been between spouses to share income and assets regardless of legal rights, the bankruptcy law tells us that the debtor’s access to the non-filing spouse’s income and assets has to be considered in deciding whether the bankruptcy court would permitting a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney can analyze each consumer’s financial situation and suggest whether a married couple should file an individual or a joint petition.

If you contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, New York, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

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