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marital debtThe issue of whether a debtor can discharge marital debt when they file for bankruptcy is something that comes up often during bankruptcy consultations with people who have a divorce in their past.  When clients come to see me regarding this issue, I generally tell them that marital debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. So if this is the only reason that you are considering filing for bankruptcy, you should try and go on some kind of payment plan and act through the family court or file a chapter 13 bankruptcy, knowing you will have to make the payments in full. The reason this debt is not dischargeable is that under §523(a)(5) of the U.S. bankruptcy code support-related obligations, which include alimony, maintenance, child support, and sometimes attorneys’ fees emanating from a marital settlement, separation agreement, or divorce decree or judgment are not dischargeable in chapter 7 bankruptcy.

This would leave debts such as attorney fees or other debts not for support purposes that may be discharged right? Unfortunately for some debtors under §523(a)(15), a debtor may not discharge marital debt if the debt is owed “to a spouse, former spouse, or child of the debtor and not of the kind described in paragraph five that is incurred by the debtor in the course of a divorce or separation or in connection with a separation agreement, divorce decree, or other order of a court of record. Therefore this exemption which was updated in 2005 under the Bankruptcy Abuse Consumer Prevention Act (BAPCPA) Several courts have ruled that marital debts are not dischargeable however I am not aware of a post 2005 case in which the 9th circuit case (the circuit that Washington State is a part of) that ruled that other marital debts not used for support were dischargeable.

With that said, chapter 13 bankruptcy may discharge some marital debts as chapter 13 of the bankruptcy code does not include the same language as chapter 7 in which makes certain marital debts written in divorce decree are non dischargeable.

If you have additional questions whether your marital debt may be discharged in a bankruptcy contact Symmes law Group today at 206-682-7975

  • Richard Symmes

    Hi, Richard here

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