How Will Bankruptcy Affect My Spouse?
Oct. 27, 2022
Comprehensive research by the Center for Economic Studies (CES) showed that married individuals account for nearly 62% of all bankruptcy filings in the United States. While the numbers do not necessarily suggest that marriage directly causes or contributes to bankruptcies, it is clear that married couples may be more likely to experience financial struggles than single individuals.
As a bankruptcy attorney at Pytte Law, I often get asked, “How will bankruptcy affect my spouse?” There is no way any skilled bankruptcy attorney can answer that question without evaluating the couple’s unique circumstances, including the amount and types of debt.
At Pytte Law, I can evaluate your financial situation and help you decide if you should file for bankruptcy as an individual or a couple. If you choose to file jointly, I can help you understand how bankruptcy will affect your spouse. With two offices in Georgia – in Hinesville and Savannah – I assist single, married, separated, widowed, and divorced individuals throughout the state, including Bryan, Long, Effingham, Chatham, and Liberty counties.
Separate Property Georgia
Georgia adopted the doctrine of equitable distribution when it comes to dividing assets and debts between married spouses. When a marriage falls apart, the couple’s assets will be categorized as separate or marital property.
Under Georgia law, separate property includes any assets owned by one spouse before the marriage and assets inherited during the marriage. All assets acquired during the marriage are considered marital property (with some exceptions) and will be subject to equitable division upon divorce.
As for debts, they can be divided in the same way as assets. When filing for bankruptcy – even if you are not planning to get a divorce – you need to determine how much of the debt belongs to you alone and how much of it is shared with your spouse.
As a skilled bankruptcy attorney at Pytte Law, I will evaluate a number of factors, including the date the debt was acquired and the types of debts, to help you classify your debts. With offices in Savannah and Hinesville, I serve people struggling with debt throughout the state, including Statesboro, Ludowici, and Richmond Hill.
Filing Bankruptcy Individually
In Georgia, a married person can choose between filing for bankruptcy individually or together with their spouse. When both spouses share debts, they may choose to file jointly as a couple. However, there are several reasons you may want to consider filing individually, including but not limited to:
You want to preserve your spouse’s credit rating
You want to protect your spouse’s business
Your spouse has little debt
You want to keep your finances separate
Your spouse is expecting to receive a gift, inheritance, or personal injury settlement
However, even if you file for bankruptcy individually, your bankruptcy filing could still affect your spouse. That is why you’ll need to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your case.
Filing Bankruptcy as a Couple
When both spouses share debt, filing for bankruptcy as a couple is usually the best option. By filing together with your spouse, you can discharge debts in both your names. If both spouses have a shared debt, but only one spouse discharges it through individual bankruptcy, the creditor may still go after the other spouse who did not file for bankruptcy. Another advantage to filing for bankruptcy as a couple is that you can cut filing costs in half.
However, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to deciding whether you should file for bankruptcy individually or as a couple. If you cannot decide, reach out to my law firm at Pytte Law. I will evaluate your case, listen to your concerns, and help you decide whether a joint or individual bankruptcy would be better in your particular situation.
Pytte Law Can Help You Make an Informed Decision
Everyone’s situation is different. What works for someone else may not work for you. Discuss your unique circumstances and concerns with a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney to determine if an individual or joint bankruptcy is right for you. At Pytte Law, I can help you understand your options so you can make an informed decision about filing for bankruptcy. Schedule a consultation today to talk about your case.