Over one million individuals and couples file for bankruptcy each year. In most cases, if you file for bankruptcy, your spouse will also be responsible for the related debts. Bankruptcy attorney Benjamin Ginter runs the Law Offices of Benjamin J. Ginter in Cranford, New Jersey. Here, he talks about what married couples need to know in the event of bankruptcy.
If a couple own a house jointly and one of them would like to file for bankruptcy, the trustee will look at the filing spouse’s plea and make it fifty-fifty.
So let’s say the husband has a lot of debt and files for bankruptcy, but the wife doesn’t and is not liable to the debt, that means she doesn’t have to file. And it turns out that after all the liens, the exemptions, and things of that nature, the house is worth $30,000. The filing husband is only entitled to $15,000 of that equity instead of $30,000, while the wife owns the other 50% of that.
If a man files for bankruptcy and his spouse does not, she could possibly be responsible for the debts if she is a co-debtor. But she will not have the negative credit mark of a bankruptcy on her credit report.
It is not required that married couples file together. A spouse only has to file if he is a co-debtor on the credit card, or if he has his own debts which he’d like to discharge as well. A spouse is not required to file, however, if he is a co-debtor on an account where his spouse is trying to discharge from bankruptcy. But in that case, he will still remain liable for that debt.
If one spouse files and the other does not, and both of them are co-debtors, the person who does not file will still be liable, and he will still have to pay that debt. That is why married couples almost always file together. Couples usually have their assets and debts in common, so if one files and the other does not, the one who doesn’t file will have to pay the debt.
What Is Joint Petition
Please keep in mind that a joint petition is a bankruptcy petition filed jointly by a husband and a wife. Only people who are married are able to file a joint petition. Unmarried partners must file a petition respectively.