Many people wonder if they can file bankruptcy without including their spouse. The answer is yes. Every individual has the right to bankruptcy so long as he or she can demonstrate financial hardship. A married couple can file bankruptcy together, which is called a joint bankruptcy, but they are not required to. Bankruptcy will only forgive debts for the person who files. If most of the debts are held jointly, a bankruptcy by one spouse would be of little benefit because the other spouse would remain liable. If, however, most of the debts are in the name of one spouse, there may be no point in having the other spouse join in the bankruptcy. Often I am asked, “Can’t bill collectors come after both of us if we’re married?” That’s a good question. The legal theory in California is that both spouses can be liable for debts incurred during marriage, but there are so many exceptions to that rule that consumer creditors rarely seek to collect from a spouse that did not sign the contract. For credit reporting purposes, a bankruptcy will only show on the reports of the person who files. Lastly, a caveat, if a married person files bankruptcy alone, that person must disclose his spouse’s income and assets.
At the Law Office of Michael Primus we have helped thousands of clients get out of debt, stop wage garnishments, and start fresh through bankruptcy. If you live in Contra Costa, Alameda or Solano counties and have debt problems, contact us for a free in-office consultation. We have offices in Walnut Creek, Antioch, and Hercules.