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So Your Spouse Won't Agree to a Joint Bankruptcy: What Do You Do?

All things being equal, it really doesn't matter how bitter an opposing spouse may be, refusing to file for a joint bankruptcy. Why is that? Simply put, contractual law regarding bankruptcy follows separate and very different rules apart from divorce proceedings. Bankruptcy filings essentially don't care if a divorce "split" two people apart, effectively splitting debts.

Erasing Debt

That simply means creditors will still continue seeing debt as a "joint" situation. Even if one spouse doesn't file for bankruptcy, debts can still be assigned to that spouse, because at the time and duration of the marriage, those debts were the responsibility of both parties. Let this be clear, though: what that means, in regards to dischargeable debt under bankruptcy law, is that only the spouse filing for bankruptcy can discharge the debt appointed by the bankruptcy court while creditors will then go after the non-bankrupt spouse for the "whole debt." It does sound like bad news, more salt to throw on the wounds in divorce law between two soon-to-be exes.

There's no alternative to this: in a way, a spouse not agreeing to a joint bankruptcy has to face the potential of being pursued by creditors for the debt liquidated by the other filing spouse. Additionally, no court under divorce law can have a say as to what a creditor can or can't do in regards to obtaining payment for debts.

The answer then to this question is simple: if you're filing for bankruptcy and your soon-to-be ex-spouse refuses to join in the case, say "okay!" You benefit no matter what from that. However, if you're the other spouse in the matter, I'd say swallow the pride, make sure debts are appropriately assigned by the divorce court and put your name in the bankruptcy case. Your spouse is benefitting from bankruptcy; you should as well.