Marriage and Bankruptcy: Do You Both Have to File? Skip to main content

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Marriage and Bankruptcy: Do You Both Have to File?


Are you a married couple, but only one of you earns income and holds assets? Or maybe only one of you has acquired debt during your marriage? If you’re married and considering a bankruptcy, you might be wondering whether you and your spouse both have to file bankruptcy.

The answer: while you and your spouse do not both have to file bankruptcy, usually, if a bankruptcy is necessary for one spouse, both spouses will end up filing.

If, for instance, both you and your spouse are liable for a debt and only one of you files under Chapter 7, the creditor may later attempt to collect the debt from the non-filing spouse, even if he or she has no income or assets! In other words, the creditor will simply demand payment for the entire debt from the spouse who didn't file. So in this case it makes sense for you both to file.

If, however, only one of you has incurred debt during your marriage, only the spouse with the debt needs to file bankruptcy. In states like North Carolina, which is not a “community” property” state, even if you are married—if you did not sign for the debt, you do not owe the debt, and you do not necessarily need to file bankruptcy.

What if you just got married and most of the debt belongs to just one of you? As long as you didn’t sign for your spouse’s premarital debt, only the spouse with the debt has to file bankruptcy.

And what about a Chapter 13? If you both qualify for a Chapter 13 and if you are both liable for any significant debts then you should file jointly under Chapter 13, even if only one of you has income!

Whether you’re considering Chapter 7 or Chapter 13—if you’re married and considering bankruptcy then both of you should consult with one of the attorneys at the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt to ensure that both of your best interests are carried out. Visit us at or call us at +1-919-646-2654.

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