Marriage can make your life so much easier—you get a break on your taxes, you get to combine assets and incomes, not to mention making a commitment to a loved one. There is one avenue, however, where marriage can significantly tangle things up.
Filing for bankruptcy while single, while far from simple, is relatively straightforward. The court will look at your income, your assets, your expenses, and your debt to determine how to repay your creditors. This is usually accomplished using a means test for either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcies. If you pass the means test, you are able to proceed with your bankruptcy.
For married couples—even when only one spouse is filing—the process becomes a bit more difficult. The means test primarily compares the filer’s income with the median income for a household of their size. For a single person, their income is the only income considered, so if that person makes less than the median, they have a very good chance that they will qualify.
Where the means test often eliminates married filers is the income comparison. Both spouses’ (even if just one is filing) incomes are considered in the means test, so the filer’s income is compared against that of a median household of two or more. Unfortunately, despite the household size doubling, the median income does not double with it; it generally increases about $15,000. This leaves Chapter 7 bankruptcy out of the question for a large portion of married filers, so Chapter 13 is a popular fallback option.
Whether you are filing jointly with your spouse or alone, bankruptcy is a decision that will affect both of you for a long time. It is important to proceed carefully to ensure that the long-term effects are positive ones. Our experienced Phoenix and Scottsdale bankruptcy attorneys are standing by to help you move forward—call Curry, Pearson & Wooten at 602-258-1000 to speak with a lawyer today.