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Bankruptcy & Marriage


Many couples sit down at the end of each month and discuss their financial situation. Some are overjoyed and plan a trip while others may be overstressed with the realization that their debt isn't going away. For those couples that can't pay off the debt that is piling up around them, considering bankruptcy might be the best move. However, what couples might not know is that there is more than one way to file for bankruptcy when you are married.

Individual vs. Joint Bankruptcy Filing

As a couple, you have the choice to file together or only have one spouse file. Not every couple will want to file for bankruptcy together. This could depend on the amount of joint debt they owe, the sources of income or the state in which they reside. However, if a spouse who is choosing not to file has signed or co-signed an agreement to pay a debt he or she will be responsible for that debt and should joint file.

Means Test

When taking the means test your combined household income will be considered even if only spouse decides to file. The means test is conducted to see which debts will be discharged or must be repaid. By having both spouses' incomes in consideration, this can affect whether certain debts can be discharged. Overall, the test helps determine whether you should file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

Property Risk

"Property acquired during marriage is considered to be equally owned by each spouse," according to Heindrick So, financial journalist. With this in mind, if a spouse decides to file individually, the property owned by the couple is still at risk. This is due to the term "equitable distribution". It is defined as, "the bankruptcy spouse's estate includes his or her separate property as well as half of the jointly owned marital property," according to Debt Help.

Credit Consequences

One of the main reasons couples don't joint file is because one spouse wants to protect his or her credit. Each person has their own credit report, however there are opportunities for creditors of shared debt to report bankruptcy even on the non-filing individual's report. Also, when applying for a loan the non-filing spouse can omit the bankruptcy spouse, however some loans such as mortgages may require both spouses' information.


We at Timothy J. Sierra Attorney at Law would like to state that our blog posts and links, on our web page or any other social media outlet, to any other web pages are not intended for legal advice. We are not responsible for third party website information. If one is in need of legal advice please contact an attorney directly.

Source: Debt Help | Bankruptcy

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  • "When I first came to the decision to file for bankruptcy, I had no idea where to start. I began researching attorneys on the internet and came across the information for Tim Sierra. Since he specialized in bankruptcy and had a lot of experience......"
  • The process of going through bankruptcy could be very overwhelming but Tim made me feel at ease and I felt that my needs were being taken care of. I truly feel that he had my best interests in mind and the lines of communication were always open....
  • "I had to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I didn't know anyone who could refer someone so I took a chance and just looked on the Internet. I don't remember exactly why I chose Mr. Sierra, but I am glad I did..."
  • He was honest, straightforward, and hard-working. In my case I ended up with some extenuating circumstances and he handled the matter professionally even though I'm sure the work probably exceeded what he originally felt it would be....
  • I don't ever write reviews, and I had no prior relationship with Mr. Sierra. This review is simply being written as a service to others that Mr. Sierra is an excellent attorney and should be considered for your needs if you need one....
  • "I'm very happy to have been referred to Tim for my Chapter 7 filing. He was knowledgeable in his field and very responsive in replying to any questions or concerns I had. Tim was also very accommodating with meeting times..."
  • " I recently was in need of Mr. Sierra's services and I found him to be very understanding and helpful in my particular circumstance. He met with me and explained everything in full detail and also answered every question that I had....."
  • " I recommend Timothy Sierra a loyal and dependable lawyer. When you talk to him you feel that you are with a friend or a member of your family. Timothy is able to lead you in every step of the process. Good job Timothy."
  • " Bankruptcy is a private and personally devastating life event. Timothy Sierra and his assistant, Nancy, made the process as painless as possible. They kept in close contact via phone and email so I always knew what was happening in my case...."
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