While most couples do file bankruptcy together, there are some circumstances in which married couples might decide to file bankruptcy separately. In rare cases, such as newlyweds, for example, one spouse might file bankruptcy alone, which helps to preserve the non-filing spouse’s credit standing. However, certain aspects of the marriage will still be examined, so you should consult with an experienced Michigan bankruptcy attorney to help you decide what will be best for your situation.
The “Means Test”
Even if only one spouse is filing bankruptcy, the entire income of the household must be calculated for the “means test” that determines whether or not you are eligible for Chapter 13 or if you should file for Chapter 7. While bankruptcy laws require that the household’s total income be calculated, the codes also allow for household members who are not filing to include their expenses for deductions, as well. The means test for bankruptcy is quite complicated.
Do You Have to be Legally Married?
The short answer is, yes. You cannot be in a common law marriage, and even if you have been living together and referring to each other as wife and husband for 20 years, you can only file a joint bankruptcy if you are legally married. Common law marriages are not recognized in Michigan, but even if they were, federal bankruptcy codes require a legal marriage for joint bankruptcy petitions.
Will Filing an Individual Bankruptcy Affect Your Spouse?
There are times when only one of the spouses carries the load of debt. Married individuals have the choice of filing bankruptcy jointly or individually, so if only one spouse has the majority of debt, it would make sense for only that spouse to file bankruptcy. If only one spouse files bankruptcy, only his or her personal information, such as a name and social security number, will show up on the petition, so the credit report of the non-filing spouse will not contain any mention of the bankruptcy. This is typically rare, however, in married couples.
Are There Benefits for Married Couples Filing Bankruptcy?
It costs a little over $300 for an individual to file either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Married couples only need to pay this filing fee once, which essentially means that both people get to file bankruptcy for all of their debts for one fee, rather than two. This is typically true for legal fees, as well – married couples’ debts are consolidated into one case.
Are You Considering Filing Bankruptcy?
If you live in Michigan, are married, and you are considering filing Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you should contact a Michigan bankruptcy attorney who focuses on helping married couples and individuals deal with their consumer debts. Contact an experienced attorney at Resnick Law P.C.for a free phone consultation at (248) 642-5400. If you are in the Detroit area, you can call (313) 423-8320, and if you are in the Bloomfield Hills, call (248) 642-5400. We will evaluate your specific case meticulously and help you make informed decisions based on your unique financial circumstances.
(image courtesy of Ryan Holloway)