If you are in a relationship and married to your spouse, often times one spouse may come into the relationship with a lot of debt, while the other spouse does not have any debts. Therefore sometimes it makes sense for only one spouse to file for bankruptcy instead of having both spouses file. Washington state is a community state and therefore all debts incurred prior to marriage are not considered joint debts, however any debts acquired after the marriage would be considered joint debts.
The bankruptcy code does allow for one spouse to file on their own, however as part of the bankruptcy filing, all household income must be accounted for. A common question that debtors have for their bankruptcy lawyer when filing bankruptcy is why their non bankruptcy filing spouses’ income is needed. The answer is because in order to determine what the household income is, both spouses income must be taken into account whether they are both filing or not. The Washington median household income is needed to determine whether the debtors have to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy or chapter 13 bankruptcy. If they debtor is below the median income for their household size and income they can file chapter 7, otherwise the debtor might have to file for chapter 13 bankruptcy. The non filing spouses personal non household expenses should be deducted from the household income if a married couple is not filing jointly. Also included in the bankruptcy petition would be all of the non filing spouses assets that were acquired after the marriage. During the debtors court meeting, the trustee may ask why your spouse is not filing with you but a reasonable explanation will usually satisfy the trustee. For more on this topic check out This Non Filing Spouse Bankruptcy Article.
If you have additional questions please contact Symmes Law Group at 206-682-7975 to schedule your free consultation.