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Should You File Bankruptcy with Your Spouse?


Marriage is more than a romantic partnership. It is an economic union as well. Many couples own considerable amounts of property together, but they also can have large joint debts.

At our law firm, we hear all the time from men and women who want to file for bankruptcy but don’t know whether they should file with their spouse. Fortunately, each person has the option to file jointly or alone. But there are many factors to consider with your Plantation bankruptcy attorney.

Analyze Your Debts

Married couples should carefully review the debts that they have to see which ones can be discharged. The key is to check who is responsible for the debt.

  • A debt might be in the name of only one spouse. If so, then this spouse must file bankruptcy to eliminate it.
  • A debt could be held jointly. For example, you might have a joint credit card. Only the spouse who files for bankruptcy will have his or her debt eliminated. The spouse who does not file remains responsible for the debt.

Many of our clients have large joint debts. This means that the debt is not going to disappear from the couple’s life if only one spouse files for bankruptcy. Creditors can still sue the spouse who did not file and collect on the debt.

Check How to Maximize Exemptions

If you file for Chapter 7 protection, which is the quicker bankruptcy, the trustee can sell non-exempt property and give the proceeds to your creditors. Florida, helpfully, provides exemptions that debtors can use. If you file jointly, you can double the amount that you exempt.

Carefully review what property might be seized. If you own a home, then it is usually exempt for the full value, so that is one benefit. But you might lose other property, such as savings in the bank.

Consider Why You Might want to File Alone

There are many reasons why people ultimately decide to file bankruptcy individually. For example:

  • You want to protect the credit of the spouse who does not file. This might be important if you hope to buy a car or home in the future.
  • You have no or limited joint debt, but the other spouse has large individual debts.
  • One spouse has substantial assets in his or her name that cannot be exempted.

One piece of advice: never transfer money out of your account and into your spouse’s name. This might seem like a good way to “shield” the assets from the trustee, but this type of transfer is considered fraudulent when it happens too soon to when you file for bankruptcy. For example, putting all of your cash in a separate account in only your spouse’s name probably will not protect it from the trustee.

Discuss Your Options with a Plantation Bankruptcy Attorney

Whether to file bankruptcy individually or jointly is a complex decision. We have only touched on some of the key factors above. For a more in-depth review with the Plantation bankruptcy lawyers at Nowack & Olson, PLLC, schedule a free consultation by contacting us at 888-813-4737.


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