A frequent question that I receive from married people who are are thinking about a bankruptcy to re-organize their finances is: can I file a bankruptcy without my spouse? The answer is: Yes! The bankruptcy code permits a married person to file a bankruptcy petition without their spouse joining.
Sometimes this is necessary because the married couple is going through a divorce and the other spouse refuses to participate in the bankruptcy. However, even for married couples who are on good terms, there are often advantages to just one spouse filing. A non-filing spouse can avoid the negative impact on credit reporting.
This is a consideration if the debts are not joint debts and only one spouse needs the relief provided by a chapter 7 discharge. However, even though only one-half of a married couple joins in the bankruptcy, the other spouse’s income will be evaluated by the bankruptcy court for the purpose of determining the filing spouse’s entitlement to the benefits of the bankruptcy code.
That is because the bankruptcy code looks at “household income,” not individual income. The non-filing spouse’s income may be disregarded to the extent that it is dedicated to expenditures other than household expenses. In any case, even thought the non-filing spouse’s income must be considered, they still remain outside the bankruptcy action and they do not suffer any adverse consequences from the bankruptcy of their spouse.
Filing for one spouse can complicate the preparation of the petition and require additional expense for the filing spouse. However, in assisting several married couples with the filing of a petition for only one spouse, I have found that the benefits to the married couple will usually outweigh the additional effort that is required to separate out household expenses.
If you are a married couple in the Orlando area, contact my office to schedule a free consultation with me to discuss how a bankruptcy action can discharge burdensome debt that has been incurred primarily by one married spouse.
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