Married Couple and Bankruptcy
Tampa Bay Bankruptcy and Debt Relief Attorney
In Florida married couples can take steps to file bankruptcy either as by filing personal bankruptcy or file joint bankruptcy. An experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorney can assist you determine if you should file a joint petition or an individual petition. To file a joint bankruptcy case, you must be legally married. Merely living together will not count. If you file a joint bankruptcy petition, it will be treated as a single filing and you will have to pay the filing fee only once.
There are both advantages and disadvantages for filing a joint bankruptcy petition.
Advantages to Filing a Joint Bankruptcy Petition
- If jointly filed, then both spouses will be protected by the automatic stay and are eligible for the benefits of the discharge.
- Your financial situation only takes one hit and resolves all debt issues for both spouses.
- Creditors cannot attempt to collect from one spouse's debt by going after the other's assets because it is a joint petition and both spouses are protected.
Disadvantages to Filing a Joint Bankruptcy Petition
- The non-filing spouse will not be protected by the automatic stay nor be eligible for the benefits of the discharge.
- Creditors can attempt to collect from the non-filing spouse (this does not happen often as long as the creditor's debt is being paid)
- Both spouses' credit will be impacted by the joint bankruptcy case.
Factors to Consider
Your bankruptcy attorney will work with you to determine the best course of action to take and whether a joint bankruptcy case will accomplish the married couples' desires. Some of the below factors are things we must consider to help us reach a decision:
- The amount of debt owed.
- Which spouses owes the debts?
- Does the couple have joint assets?
- Desired time frame to make big purchases (ex. House or car).
- Is an inheritance expected in the near future?
Generally, a bankruptcy attorney may advise you to file a joint bankruptcy petition if the spouse's debts are mixed up with the other, joint debt. However, if one spouses debts are primarily in their own name and it is very minimal, then we may advise you not to file a joint petition or possibly not file at all. Additionally, if there is an inheritance on the horizon, we will likely advise that spouse not to file.
Role of an Attorney
An experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorney will help you determine the right bankruptcy chapter based on your circumstances and walk you through the steps to filing bankruptcy. Consumers usually have the option to file either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. If you want to file under Chapter 7, you must pass an income-based test known as the means test. The attorney will explain the details of the means test. However, if you do not pass the means test, it does not mean that you cannot file for bankruptcy. It merely means that you cannot file under Chapter 7. You can however still file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 13 of the federal bankruptcy code.
We will work with you to make sure you file the correct bankruptcy for your current situation.
At the Coleman Law Group, we understand that married couples consider several factors when contemplating filing bankruptcy such as family, future goals, and most importantly relieving the stress of a difficult financial situation. At the Coleman Law Group, you will find an affordable bankruptcy lawyer who takes pride in offering sound bankruptcy advice.
If you are located in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Land O' Lakes, Sarasota, Clearwater, Largo, or any of the surrounding areas, contact the Coleman Law group for a free bankruptcy consultation at 727.214.0400.
You also can visit our website at colemanlawgroup.com