Married couples can file bankruptcy jointly, but it is not a requirement. If a married person wants to file bankruptcy but their spouse does not want to file, then they can file the bankruptcy case in their own name only. There may be very good reasons for choosing to file separately. Perhaps only one spouse is responsible for the debt. If that is the case then the spouse who is not liable for the debt may not need to file bankruptcy.
In most marriages, both people are liable for the debt incurred during the marriage. If this is the case, then not filing a joint bankruptcy case can be costly. The party who does not file bankruptcy is known as the non-filing spouse. The non-filing spouse continues to be liable for the debt after the bankruptcy is completed. Since creditors may be able to seize nonexempt property that is community property after the bankruptcy case is completed, the party who completed the bankruptcy case may find little relief from their discharge order.
The decision to file bankruptcy jointly or separately must be made prior to filing the bankruptcy case. A spouse cannot be added to the bankruptcy petition at a later date. If your spouse is considering filing bankruptcy but you do not want to, you may want to consider meeting with your spouse’s bankruptcy attorney to make sure you understand how this decision will affect you. Most bankruptcy attorneys do not charge for the initial consultation. Even if you decide not to file bankruptcy with your spouse, your spouse’s bankruptcy is going to affect your financial situation as well, so getting a little information now may be helpful later.