Many people filing for bankruptcy wonder if their spouse has to file also. In today's society, many people enter a marriage or even second marriage with debts from their past. In some cases, one will be virtually debt-free and the other spouse will be buried under past debts with no way out. The liability of debt only belongs to the person that incurred it. So if an individual had $50,000 in credit card debt prior to getting married, the spouse is not obligated to pay any of it. In fact, the other spouse might have stellar credit and being included in the bankruptcy filing will give them a big scarlet B. on their credit report and drag them down because of their spouse. When filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy only the debtor that incurred the debt needs to be on the bankruptcy petition. The only way a couple would want to file jointly is that they have debt they accumulated during their marriage and it can't be paid because of financial troubles.
When a person is filing for bankruptcy to stop a foreclosure, it sometimes can get complicated and that's why it's best to use a bankruptcy attorney to deal with these issues. The only person that technically needs to file for bankruptcy is the one that owns the house. Once the bankruptcy is filed, the automatic stay goes into effect and the foreclosure sale of the home will stop. When one spouse files and they jointly own the property, only 50% of the property has to be protected by bankruptcy exemption laws. In fact, when the individual is filling out the bankruptcy petition and listing their property, when they value it, they will value the property at half because their spouse technically owns the other half.
There are different cases that will benefit a couple filing bankruptcy jointly and it usually involves the protection of assets. The bankruptcy attorney will usually figure it out both ways and give the couple the pros and cons of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy single and jointly. Basically, it depends on how intertwined the couple's finances are. The more intertwined with new credit since the marriage, the more chance for bankruptcy attorney will think a joint bankruptcy filing would be best.
Back in 2005, Congress changed the bankruptcy code and made it tougher to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Included in the changes was the addition of the means test which requires individuals filing Chapter 7 to qualify. The individual filing bankruptcy needs to make less than the median income for their state to qualify to file Chapter 7. The median income is based on the household income of the individual and needs to include the spouse's income if both are working. Nowadays, many people come into marriage with a lot of baggage and debts. The individual will decide to file for bankruptcy and wipe out all their past to get a fresh start with their new spouse. This is where the trouble begins, if the new spouse makes a generous amount of money to contribute to the household, the individual might no longer qualify to file Chapter 7. Many times, in this situation if the debtor had only gone and got advice from a bankruptcy attorney prior to getting married they would've found out that they should have filed for bankruptcy prior to getting married.
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