Marriage, Pre-Marriage Planning And Bankruptcy

I get a lot of questions about Marriage and Bankruptcy. One question  is “I have a lot of debt: should I file Bankruptcy now or wait until we  get married?” The second question often asked is whether a married  couple should file a joint bankruptcy or whether only one party should  file.

These are excellent questions as one’s financial future is  at stake. That is why it is best to call the law offices of Robert J  Adams & Associates. The office has lawyers with many years of  experience counseling clients on this question. We are dedicated to  helping our clients work out the best possible solution to their  financial problems.


  • If  both spouses require financial debt relief, they can file one case thus  avoiding separate legal and filing fees for 2 cases, and a joint case  is more efficient.
  • If the couple co-signed debts for each  other, and only one spouse files the bankruptcy the other spouse is not  protected. This especially true of one of the joint debts is a car  loan.
  • At the conclusion of a joint bankruptcy case both  spouses will have put the worst of their financial problems behind them  and be ready to rebuild their credit.


  • Married  couples living together are subject to the Means Test for both incomes.  This means that you have to add the annual gross income of both  parties. If there is a big difference in income this could work out bad  for the person who needs the bankruptcy.
    • For example:  Spouse or fiancée A would like to file a Chapter 7 and earns $40,000 per  year while Spouse or fiancée B does not need a bankruptcy but earns  $100,000 per year. Most likely if married Spouse A would have to file a 5  year Chapter 13 and likely with a high dividend to unsecured creditors.
  • One  Spouse owns too much property. For joint cases, all property owned by  either spouse is involved in the case. If one spouse owns any valuable  property, the other may benefit from filing the case individually.
    • For  example: Assume Spouse A is burdened with debt and has little property  in his/her name while Spouse B has a great deal of property in his/her  name far exceeding allowed exemptions. In this case it would be best for  Spouse A to file an individual case since he/she only needs to list  property in his/her own name and not the spouse’s property.
  • Too much priority and/or Non dischargeable debts of one spouse
    • When  a couple files a joint Chapter 13 all debts must be included. Having a  large priority debt (such as taxes and/or child support obligations)  might require a much higher Chapter 13 payment. An individual case might  be the best option for the one without the priority debts.
  • Mortgage Arrears and/or Condo Arrears
    • When  the primary or sole purpose of filing a Chapter 13 is to save the home  and there is little other debt, I generally advise clients not to file a  joint Chapter 13. Any experienced lawyer can give you a fuller  explanation.

Our law firm has helped thousands of good people like you to get back on their feet financially.

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