“If a couple is married, can only one individual file for bankruptcy?” The answer, simply, is yes. Married couples do not have to file for bankruptcy together – One person may file individually, or both individuals may file together.
When filing individually, bankruptcy will not affect the non-filing spouses’ credit, provided there aren’t any joint debts. Joint debts are debts shared between both individuals. So, if a debt is shared by both individuals, the creditor can look at either person, or both, to pay the debt.
I do want to caution you: Your spouse’s income is considered when determining whether you qualify for a Chapter 7. This change occurred when the new bankruptcy laws became effective on October 17, 2005.
Let me give you an example: Before October 17, 2005, if one spouse was poor and the other was rich, the poor spouse would be able to file separately. Under the current law, however, the court looks at the total household income, so a wealthy spouse can actually prevent a poor spouse from being able to qualify for a Chapter 7. The reason behind this, in the court’s view, it is a family budget, so the spouse that makes a lot of money can help the other spouse pay off his/her bills.
So, a spouses’ income can affect the other spouses’ ability to file, but it won’t affect their credit unless there is joint debt.
If you are interested in speaking with our California Bankruptcy Attorney, call us at (818) 714-2200.