Lawyer Nick GajewskiPotential clients often wonder if they have to file with their spouse or if they can file on their own.  The short answer is that you can file on your own, but the court will still want to know some information about your spouse.  In addition, you may be better off if your spouse files with you.

A person files bankruptcy only if they actually sign the bankruptcy petition that is filed with the court.  If your husband or wife hasn’t signed any paperwork, then they aren’t actually a part of the case.  A bankruptcy case is tied to the social security number of the person filing, so the fact that you are filing a case should not appear anywhere on your spouse’s credit record.

You Must Disclose Your Spouse’s Income

However, your spouse’s information plays a large role in filing a case.  The court calculates income based on the household, not the individual.  This means that the court will require you to disclose your spouse’s income even if he or she is not filing.  If there is other income to the household other than from your spouse (for example, your fiancé or live-in boyfriend/girlfriend), then the court will want to know that information as well.  This information is what the court uses when examining your monthly household budget.  This also means that your spouse’s expenses can be included in that budget as well.  So even if your spouse has a high income, you may still qualify to file a bankruptcy case since your spouse’s bills can be taken into account.

Filing a Joint Bankruptcy

In addition, filing jointly with your spouse may be better for you than filing individually.  When you file a joint bankruptcy case, you are entitled to claim property exemptions for real and personal property for both you and your spouse.  In Alabama, exemptions for an individual are $15,000 for your homestead and $7,500 for personal property.  For a joint couple, the exemptions double to $30,000 and $15,000.  It is possible that a joint case could eliminate the debts of both you and your spouse while also protecting more of your property from the court.

To weigh the pros and cons of filing an individual or joint case, you should consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.  At Bond & Botes, our attorneys have years of experience helping people navigate the complex laws of the bankruptcy court system.  We offer free initial consultations at all of our locations in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.  If you are in financial trouble, please call us to set up a free consultation.  Let us help you determine if filing a bankruptcy case is the right move for you.

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