BANKRUPTCY- SHOULD YOU FILE BEFORE OR AFTER DIVORCE?

We are attorneys located in Eastgate and Middletown, Ohio. Since 1992, Bankruptcy has been the main focus of our practice.

If you are considering bankruptcy contact our office for a free consultation.  At this consultation our attorneys will analyze your individual situation.

Your spouse does not have to file bankruptcy.  You can file bankruptcy without your spouse, but whether they should file with you depends on the circumstances. Here are some of the most common situations in determining whether to file with your spouse.

All (or Most) Debts are in One Spouse’s Name

This happens often either in a relatively new marriage, or one in which one of the spouses had operated a failing business. The person with little or no debt doesn’t want to participate in filing bankruptcy if it’s not necessary to do so.

In a newer marriage, the couple may realize that the debts of one spouse is hurting their joint financial lives. Possibly the financial stress is jeopardizing the marriage itself. That is especially true if the spouse with the debts either was not candid about the amount of debts he or she was bringing into the marriage, or has continued to use credit within the marriage without the full knowledge of the other spouse.

Whatever the context, determining whether to file bankruptcy for just one spouse requires a thorough analysis as to who is liable on each of the debts.  If there is joint liability, the creditor can pursue the non-filing spouse for the full amount.

It takes some analyses to determine whether a spouse is or is not liable on a debt.  Being an authorized user sometimes creates liability, and sometimes doesn’t. You can discuss this at your free consultation.

Preserving the Other Spouse’s Credit Record

A common reason given for one spouse not wanting to file is to protect his or her credit record. That’s a sensible enough goal. And not only for the non-filing spouse. The couple could benefit from the non-filing spouse’s access to credit on behalf of their household. That non-filing spouse may help the filing spouse re-establish his or her good credit through co-signing of new debts , for example.  Many times when one spouse has a small amount of debt, we may advise not to join the bankruptcy.

But be careful with assumptions about keeping the fling spouse’s case out of the non-filer’s credit record. This is especially if you have a joint debt or two, including ones that you intend to continue to pay and keep “outside the bankruptcy” case, such as a home mortgage or vehicle loan. Although credit reporting agencies are not supposed to refer to a co-debtor’s bankruptcy filing in the non-filer’s credit reports, don’t simply assume that will happen appropriately.

So it’s all the more important for the non-filing spouse to review his or her credit report before the other spouse’s bankruptcy is filed and then very regularly thereafter to make sure there’s no reference, directly or indirectly, to the bankruptcy case.

THINKING OF DIVORCE

Bankruptcy can be good financial planning when anticipating divorce.  If it’s clear, both that you will be getting divorced, and that you need the financial relief of a bankruptcy, then which should come first?  If the bankruptcy is first, should you file with your spouse or not?  Most of the you should file together.  You save on filing and attorney fees, and you have less to argue about (so you spend less on legal fees) in the divorce.  But, this isn’t always true.

The overly simplified answer is as follows:

  • Do not file a joint Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” case with your spouse in anticipation of a divorce without BOTH of you getting independent legal advice from separate attorneys.
  • In some situations, it is not in one or the other’s interests to file jointly.
  • In virtually NO circumstances would it make sense to file a joint Chapter 13 case in contemplation of a divorce—a Chapter 13 take three to five years to complete, and at the time of your divorce we would have to turn that case into two separate Chapter 13 cases, or into two Chapter 7 cases.

MORE INFORMATION

Contact Keegan & Co Attorneys today for your free consultation 513-752-3900 at one of our office closest to you: Eastgate or Middletown. Free parking. Convienent appointment times. Fair fees. Our office has been helping the people of Greater Cincinnati since 1992. Caring and knowledgeable lawyers.