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Same-sex Florida couple may have trouble with bankruptcy

Bankruptcy affects people of all ages and financial situations. With the financial challenges that are still widespread in our state, it's common for married couples to file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. But bankruptcy among married couples hadn't been a gender issue in Florida until now. Lawyers are saying a recent bankruptcy filing will be a first in Florida, whether a same-sex married couple wins or loses their bankruptcy case.

The couple from southwest Florida had been legally married up north, then filed for bankruptcy some time after moving to Florida, when they began having trouble with their rental property investments. After filing for bankruptcy, the couple was shocked to find out their case could be thrown out, since Florida doesn't recognize same-sex marriage.

Such marriages in states that don't recognize them can cause other financial problems for same-sex couples. Joint tax returns, social security benefits, and some types of insurance are not possible or difficult for same-sex couples to get in Florida. This may even add to the problems that would force a couple to file for bankruptcy.

The couple's attorney says that Florida's bankruptcy laws say married couples can file for bankruptcy, but the law doesn't specify the spouses must both be of the opposite sex. With this case, the couple is undoubtedly relying on their attorney to help them through the process and to represent them in court. The judge's decision may set a precedent as to how any future bankruptcies among same-sex couples are handled in Florida, if they had been legally married in another state.

Source: Fox 4, "SW Florida couple says sexuality could play role in bankruptcy," Dave Culbreth, May 1, 2013

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