Bankruptcy may be difficult for married couples. While no one wants to assign blame, it is easy to feel guilty for causing financial problems that negatively affect another person. Especially when that other person is your spouse. Married couples may choose to file for bankruptcy jointly, as a couple, similarly to the way they may file their federal taxes, or they may choose to file for bankruptcy individually and separately.
In determining which filing option is best, married couples may want to consider the following:
- Utah’s exemption laws
- The value of the couple’s jointly owned assets
- The value of each spouse’s separately owned assets
- the obligations that each spouse owes jointly
- the obligations that each spouse owes separately
- Each spouse’s credit score
- The spouses’ combined income (whether a spouse files individually or jointly, this income amount must be included in any Means Test calculations unless the spouses are separated
- The extent to which the marital adjustment deductions will reduce enough income to help one spouse qualify for an individual filing.
The Positives Aspects of a Married Couple Filing Jointly
The primary benefit for married couples jointly filing bankruptcy is that most, if not all, of their debt, may be eliminated, including debts incurred as a married couple and individual debts for which they are solely responsible.
Filing a joint petition allows both spouses to pay only one filing fee, which saves money. Why? The court filing fees are the same for individual and joint bankruptcy cases.
Filing jointly allows married couples the convenience and efficiency of filing only one petition with the accompanying schedules and statements that are often over 50 pages in length. Married couples who file jointly will attend their meeting of creditors (“341 Meeting”) together rather than separately or alone. A joint petition streamlines the process and may eliminate a great amount of unnecessary duplication. On the other hand, it may not always be the best option.
The Negatives Aspects of a Married Couple Filing Jointly
State law regulates Utah bankruptcy exemptions. If one spouse owns substantial separate nonexempt assets, this property will be used to pay unsecured creditors. Thus, filing jointly may not be best if it places these assets at risk.
If most debts are in the name of only one spouse, filing a joint bankruptcy case will negatively affect the credit rating of the spouse with a clean credit record. Filing an individual case will preserve one spouse’s healthy credit making it available for use after the bankruptcy case.
Experienced bankruptcy counsel may be necessary to help any married couple understand bankruptcy and its full list of benefits. Theron Morrison has helped 8,000 people file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases to gain a fresh start. Call 801.456.9933 to schedule a FREE consultation. We have locations in Ogden, Logan, Sandy, Orem, and St. George to serve the residents of the counties of Weber, Cache, Salt Lake, Utah, Morgan, Davis, Washington, and surrounding areas.