How Will Filing for Bankruptcy Affect my Spouse?

Debt can place a huge amount of stress on any marriage. There is an old saying: You should file bankruptcy before you get divorced AND before you get married. When it comes to dealing with debt, it’s important to try to be supportive of one another. Having help can make a big difference when it comes to addressing serious debt problems. At our firm we represent tons of Orlando residents that come in to the firm and tell me they separated and are about to get divorced. They will sit on separate sides of the conference room and I will talk to them. The good thing is even thought they are separated with different households and expenses, I can still file for them and they will only have to pay one fee for both spouses. Smart.

Several different consumer bankruptcy options are available to individuals who are married, including filing an individual bankruptcy without your spouse listed as a party to the case. But even if you file for bankruptcy without your spouse, the case can still have unintended consequences for him or her. Ultimately, it depends on the type of bankruptcy you file, and the categories of debt and property included in the case.   

Joint Property

For the most part, property that is owned separately by the non-filing spouse will not be affected by your individual bankruptcy case. However, joint assets are a bit more complicated. Florida is a common law property state, which means that the property included in the bankruptcy estate includes the individual property owned by you, as well as any joint property you and your spouse own together. The only property that would be excluded from the bankruptcy estate would be property owned separately by your spouse. Florida’s bankruptcy exemptions will cover your property, depending on the category of property involved, as well as its value. What we do at the consultation is discuss this and most often times I will ask what does the marital settlement agreement (MSA) say? Who gets the house? If a Judge rules the house will go to the wife, if the husband files bankruptcy, the house is protected. If the wife files bankruptcy, as long as she is lvin in the house, it is 100% protected.

Credit Score and Joint Debts

When you file for bankruptcy alone, the filing will normally only affect your credit score. However, if you share joint debts, filing for bankruptcy to discharge that joint debt will show up on your spouse’s credit report. Additionally, creditors will continue to come after your spouse for payment of these debts, even if the joint debt is included in your bankruptcy case.  
If you have chosen to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your spouse can take advantage of the co-debtor stay to keep creditors from contacting him or her. The codebtor stay allows your spouse to keep creditors from coming after him or her when one spouse files for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and the other does not. Like the automatic stay, a creditor can always file a request to have the stay lifted, especially if the joint debt is not included in the Chapter 13 repayment plan.  

Future Joint Loans


Filing for bankruptcy does not mean you and your spouse will never be able to apply for joint loans in the future. You should expect your individual credit score to take a hit after filing for bankruptcy, so you may choose to use your spouse’s score if you need financing right away. Rebuilding credit takes time, but it’s possible. Within a few years, with good financial habits, you should see your score rebound, and you will be able to apply for joint credit again in the future.   
If you have questions on this topic or are struggling with debt, call our law firm to schedule a free consultation. Having debt makes you stay up at night. It stresses you out. It ruins relationships. I went through it. Boldly, I mustered up the courage to call a bankruptcy attorney and I pressed the restart button in 2008. I never forgot what it did for me and how it helped me start over.  

It even inspired me and my law firm to become the largest filers of bankruptcies in the country and in the top two in Florida- all from our offices in Orlando and Kissimmee. The Benenati Law Firm has eliminated nearly a billion dollars of debt for its bankruptcy clients, making the firm one of the top twenty filers of bankruptcy in the nation.  
Remember, we are local in your hometown. We make our hours convenient for our clients and offer free consultations on Saturdays (9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.) along with our normal business hours throughout the week. Virtual consultations available. Go to or call 407-777-7777 to set up a free private consultation and learn more information. Because Life Has a Restart Button.