Should a Husband and Wife File Jointly?

By admin • July 23rd, 2010

We are often asked if a husband or wife can file bankruptcy separately.  The short answer is yes, the longer answer lies in what you hope to accomplish.

By way of background, each debt is the responsibility of the person that took on the debt.  For most married couples, that is both the husband and wife.  If only one spouse has responsibility for a debt discharged in bankruptcy, responsibility for the debt remains with the other spouse; the entire debt, not half of it.  For this reason, it’s generally best to have both spouses file so both can receive a fresh start.

To add a layer of complexity, if all the debt lies with only one spouse, California’s community property laws come into play.  Assets acquired during marriage are generally community property (to oversimplify a complicated family law concept).  As a result, a creditor can collect a judgment against a community property asset like a bank account or a piece of property.  This is a more sophisticated level of collection, but depending on the creditor and/or the amount of the debt it does happen.


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