08.27.09 Married Stress

Many debtors who have racked up debt without the knowledge of their spouse may be tempted to file bankruptcy “secretly” and not mention it to their spouse.

Here’s why that’s always a bad idea:

  1. While you have a legal right to file bankruptcy alone even if you’re married, keeping news of your bankruptcy filing from your spouse is nearly impossible.  If you stop paying your creditors in anticipation of your bankruptcy filing, they will begin calling (before you file) and your spouse will eventually pick up one of those phone calls.  Also, he/she may eventually notice the letters you receive from the bankruptcy court and at least have a few questions about it.
  2. When you are married and you file bankruptcy you will need to provide two months’ worth of your spouse’s pay stubs, last year’s tax returns, proof of retirement accounts and various other documents that might be in your spouse’s possession. If you start asking for all of this information in preparation for your bankruptcy filing, it may raise suspicions.
  3. If your spouse is on any of the debts such as credit cards, they may risk being pursued by creditors if you file bankruptcy.  For example, if you and your spouse had a joint credit card account, and you discharged that debt in bankruptcy, the credit card company may pursue your spouse for payment. This is the same for any other debt, secured or unsecured.
  4. If your spouse is using one of the credit lines included in bankruptcy, he/she will need to discontinue using it before you file bankruptcy.  Once you ask them to stop using the credit line, they will ask why.
  5. And finally, lying to your spouse about your bankruptcy will add unnecessary stress and dishonesty to your relationships. Not to mention that it is a lie that will eventually be discovered.

The first step to getting your fresh financial start is being honest with your spouse. Even if you need to work with a marriage counselor to break the news to your spouse, it is much better than the alternative.