It’s not uncommon for couples to consider filing for bankruptcy while seeking a divorce. In fact, financial disagreements are the second leading cause of divorce in the U.S.
But, before your finances drive you to bankruptcy, it’s wise to consider the implications your divorce may have on it. In some cases, it’s best to file for bankruptcy before divorcing. In others, it’s not an option. Here are a few key considerations to take before making your decision.
Does it make more sense to file for bankruptcy before divorce?
A potential advantage to filing for a bankruptcy prior to divorce is the opportunity to joint file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy together. If you are and your spouse can work amicably with a lawyer, filing a joint petition means you’ll save on filing and attorney fees. You’ll also streamline the divorce process by eliminating your marital debt. Except for non-dischargeable debt, such as taxes, you won’t have to divvy up debts through divorce.
Your exemption amounts will also be doubled. Because Chapter 7 bankruptcy only allows non-exempt property to be seized, this may allow you to keep important assets from being liquidated. For example, your home will be protected if the equity of the home is higher than $38,600.
However, if only one spouse files for bankruptcy before divorce, the other spouse will likely be required to pay the other half of the marital debt through divorce proceedings.
Can you file for bankruptcy while divorcing?
Filing for bankruptcy before, during or after divorce will not absolve an ex-spouse of the responsibility to pay spousal support (alimony) or child support.
If you are separated from your spouse, the debts your ex has accumulated since separation are separate from marital debt. If you can pay off the marital debt after property division, filing for bankruptcy during divorce may not be necessary for you.
However, for couples who share an unmanageable amount of marital debt, divorce proceedings can be put on hold for the couple to file for joint bankruptcy and complete the process.
Is it better to finish divorce proceedings first?
If your combined household income is too high to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’ll have to file for it after divorce. Chapter 13 bankruptcy also won’t be an option for most divorcing couples because it requires a payment plan that lasts between three and five years.
The Chapter 13 repayment plan can be useful to file for after divorce if you are unable to pay spousal or child support payments on time.
Financial crisis can consume you with overwhelming feelings. A skilled bankruptcy attorney can help clear your mind by advising what types of bankruptcy you should file for and when.