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How Couples Can File for Bankruptcy


Married couples planning to file for bankruptcy often have questions about how their legal relationship will impact the bankruptcy case. For example, are both spouses in a married couple required to file for bankruptcy if one spouse wants to file, or can spouses file individually? Or, for instance, if both spouses in a marriage want to file for bankruptcy, can they file a single bankruptcy petition, or will each party need to file separately? Are there reasons to consider a joint versus two individual filings when parties are married? These questions can become even more complicated when spouses are considering or planning on divorce. Our West Palm Beach bankruptcy attorneys can provide you with more information, and we can discuss your individual circumstances with you today.

Bankruptcy Rules for Married Couples 

American bankruptcy law addresses issues pertaining to bankruptcy for married spouses. First, you should know that when parties are married and one of them wants to file for bankruptcy, bankruptcy law does not require that both parties file. To be sure, just one spouse can file for bankruptcy. However, depending upon the couple’s particular circumstances, certain assets or debts that the parties believe to be separate could actually be jointly held property that will need to be considered in the bankruptcy case.

Bankruptcy law does allow spouses to file a joint bankruptcy petition rather than filing individual petitions when both of them want to file for bankruptcy.

When to File Separately 

When should you and your spouse file separately for bankruptcy (in other words, when should you not file jointly for bankruptcy)? Perhaps quite obviously, no joint filing should occur when just one spouse wants to file for bankruptcy.

When only one spouse is filing for bankruptcy, it is important to determine whether you do in fact have separate assets and/or debts that will become part of the bankruptcy case, or whether the other spouse’s property will also be implicated.

Parties should also usually file separately if they are planning on a Chapter 13 case while also considering divorce. Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy jointly will result in a shared bankruptcy repayment plan that will last three to five years.

When to File Jointly 

Filing jointly is appropriate when both spouses want to file for bankruptcy because of the convenience and lower cost. Only one bankruptcy petition will need to be filed, and certain bankruptcy exemptions can be doubled.

Filing jointly can also be useful for spouses with shared assets and debts planning on a Chapter 7 bankruptcy prior to a divorce. Many shared debts that would be at issue in the divorce case can be eligible for discharge, and non-exempt shared assets that would need to be distributed in the divorce will typically be liquidated. Accordingly, a joint Chapter 7 filing prior to a divorce can often result in a quicker and smoother divorce.

Contact a West Palm Beach Bankruptcy Lawyer Today 

Whenever you have questions about the bankruptcy process or want to find out more about filing for bankruptcy, our experienced West Palm Beach bankruptcy lawyers at Kelley, Kaplan & Eller can assist you. Our attorneys represent individuals and businesses in various types of bankruptcy cases, and we can talk with you today about your financial circumstances and your bankruptcy options. Do not hesitate to contact us to learn more.



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