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Monday, February 23, 2015

How Will My Bankruptcy Affect My Spouse?

Only one spouse filing bankruptcy is very common. A bankruptcy filing should not impact the non-filing spouse's credit; however, the filing may cause an issue with any debt that is held jointly and any unprotected or "unexempt" assets. Consulting with an experienced bankruptcy attorney will give you an idea if there are any issues. The non-filing spouse should attend the bankruptcy consultation with the filing spouse so that these potential issues can be thoroughly explored and so that they are fully aware of any issues that may exist.

Joint Debt

If there is a joint debt and only one spouse files bankruptcy, only the filing spouse's liability on the joint debt is discharged (be mindful that some debts are or can be deemed nondischargeable). In other words, the non-filing spouse will be liable for the entire joint debt after the filing spouse receives a bankruptcy discharge.

Equity in Joint Property

If there is significant equity in joint property, there is a risk of liquidation (forced sale) by the Trustee if the filing spouse is filing a Chapter 7. Sitting down with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to do a thorough review of your assets will allow you to determine if any liquidation issues exist.

Required Information

The bankruptcy filing will require the filing spouse to provide proof of the total household income. The filing spouse will have to provide copies of the non-filing spouse's pay stubs (or other similar income statements) and tax returns, both of which involve their personal information. This information is used by the debtor's attorney and Trustee to determine such things as eligibility in Chapter 7, the plan payment in Chapter 13, and potential assets/disposable income related to tax refunds.

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