Do We Have to File Chapter 7 Jointly?

In many ways, a married couple constitutes one legal and financial unit, but there are also many ways in which a wife and husband can operate separately in their financial lives.

  • Either spouse can apply for credit in his or her own name only.
  • Either spouse can start a business in his or her name only.
  • An inheritance may be considered separate rather than marital property.
  • Married people may choose to file income taxes jointly or separately.
  • Either spouse may declare bankruptcy without involvement of the other.

A generalized answer to the question of "Do we have to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy jointly?" is "No," but there are some caveats. Naturally, a marriage will have an impact on a bankruptcy filing, whether or not both spouses file. For example, household income and expenses will include both spouses' finances.

Also, any debt that is held jointly by both spouses will be discharged only for the person who files bankruptcy. The other spouse could be held liable for the entire debt by the creditor. In Illinois, this includes medical bills for either spouse. Illinois laws hold that medical expenses of either spouse or their dependents incurred while a couple is living together are joint debts of the two people. Therefore, in order to fully discharge medical debts in a bankruptcy, a married person will need to file together with the other spouse.

However, there are many circumstances in which married couples may not wish to file bankruptcy together, and sometimes this is the best decision when all factors are taken into consideration.

For example, a wife might not want to join in a bankruptcy filing, and she and her husband have $3,000 in joint credit card debts, in addition to other debts that are his alone. In this case, it may make perfect sense for the husband to file bankruptcy separately in order to eliminate the husband's debt, even though this will mean that the wife will still be responsible for the $3,000 in joint credit card debts. Once the bankruptcy is complete and the Chapter 7 debt discharge is issued, the husband can join with the wife in repaying that debt.

Contact an Experienced Chicago Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney

Bring your questions regarding Chapter 7 bankruptcy to our attention at Ledford, Wu & Borges, LLC. Only three lawyers in Chicago are certified in consumer bankruptcy by the American Board of Certification*. Two are partners at Ledford, Wu & Borges, LLC. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

*The American Board of Certification is accredited by the American Bar Association and sponsored by the American Bankruptcy Institute and the Commercial Law League of America. Federal law recognizes board certification in bankruptcy. The Supreme Court of Illinois does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law and the certificate, award or recognition is not a requirement to practice law in Illinois.

We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.

Ledford, Wu & Borges, LLC has offices in Downtown Chicago, South Side Chicago, Calumet City, North Riverside/Berwyn, Northwest Side and Schaumburg.