Written by Canterbury Law Group

Common Questions When One Spouse Files Bankruptcy

The Scottsdale bankruptcy attorneys at Canterbury Law Group represent debtors, creditors, trustees and committees in both personal and commercial bankruptcies. Bankruptcy law provides for the reduction or elimination of certain debts, and can provide a timeline for the repayment of non-dischargeable debts. It also permits individuals and organizations to repay secured debts with more favorable terms to the borrower.

The Phoenix bankruptcy lawyers at Canterbury represent many clients through personal bankruptcy cases. If you’re married and considering filing bankruptcy, here are common questions that often arise:

1. Do I Have to File Bankruptcy with My Spouse? If only one partner in a marriage owes debt, then only that partner should file for bankruptcy. Debts where spouses are jointly and severally liable for payment will remain with the spouse who has not filed for bankruptcy. However, in states that follow community property law, single spouse bankruptcy for joint debts may in some situations be advantageous.

2. Can I File for Bankruptcy without My Spouse’s Knowledge? Legally and in theory, yes, it would be possible for one spouse to file for bankruptcy without the other partner ever finding out. However, Chapter 7 bankruptcy uses income as a test for eligibility and utilizes income garnishment as a means of settling debt. The non-filing spouse will certainly notice if his or her paychecks are being collected by the bankruptcy court for debt repayment. Even outside Chapter 7 bankruptcy though, there are plenty of other ways for a spouse to discover his or her partner’s financial situation. Our Scottsdale bankruptcy lawyers suggest that hiding bankruptcy is only a temporary solution at best and is not healthy to any marriage nor recommended.

3. Will My Credit or Property Be Affected If My Spouse Files Bankruptcy? In general, one spouse filing for bankruptcy will not affect the other spouse’s financial situation, including the other spouse’s credit rating. A debt is created by contract between a debtor and a creditor – each debtor must sign the contract to be liable for payment. Therefore, the bankruptcy of one spouse does not cause the other to become bankrupt.

4. Does Single Spouse Bankruptcy Change the Nature of Joint Debts? Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, when a spouse’s debts are wiped clean, the creditor can go after the other spouse. However, a major advantage of Chapter 13 bankruptcy, where the debtor plans to re-pay her debts, is that the creditor will leave the co-debtor alone, as long as bankruptcy plan payments are timely deposited.

5. Are There Any Exceptions? While the bankruptcy of one spouse does not generally affect the other, there are some notable exceptions. For example, the bankruptcy of one’s spouse may show up on the other’s credit report if joint debt is involved – a contentious area of the law. Also, if applying for a joint loan in the future, the bankruptcy of one spouse will affect the creditworthiness of the applying couple.

If you’re considering filing bankruptcy, the Phoenix bankruptcy attorneys can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 480-240-0040.

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