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Everett | Seattle| Bellevue | Tacoma | Olympia

Bankruptcy and Your Spouse

Bankruptcy and Divorce

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Chapter 7 Bankruptcy


Bankruptcy and Spouses - Divorce and Bankruptcy in Washington State


Will being married complicate my Washington State bankruptcy?   What if I am going through a divorce?  How is my spouse affected?  Get answers today!

Washington is a “community property” state. That means that all debts that were incurred during a marriage in Washington to support the “marital community” belong to both spouses. If either spouse took out a loan, made a charge on a credit card, etc. to support the household during the marriage, it’s almost like the one who didn’t take out the loan was a co-signer. 

So, if one spouse files a Washington State bankruptcy petition and the other does not, the one who doesn’t file bankruptcy may have to pay the debt anyway. Therefore, it often makes sense for both spouses to file even if one spouse did not actually take out a loan or otherwise incur a debt. If one spouse has a lot of debt from before the marriage or during a separation, then the other spouse would not be liable for that debt. 

Divorce and bankruptcy in Washington State can be complicated, especially if one spouse owns or is an owner in a small business.  It can also get complicated if one spouse has significant separate property that was owned prior to the marriage, or even acquired after marriage (such as an inheritance or personal injury proceeds). In these kinds of situations, your best bet is to get with one of our Washington State bankruptcy lawyers as soon as possible. Often, with some pre-planning, the potential consequences can be minimized. But, it's important for our bankruptcy attorneys to know what they are looking at and working with as far in advance of filing as possible.

One of the great things about hiring our bankruptcy team is that we also have other members of our firm with extensive divorce and family law experience.  It's one of the things that sets our firm apart from other local law firms who only handle bankruptcy work.  You get the benefit of a true team approach to your bankruptcy case.  If you have questions about your legal rights when it comes to bankruptcy and divorce, our attorneys have the resources and the experience to make sure that you are properly protected on every legal front.

Considering both a Washington State divorce and filing for bankruptcy?

If you are thinking of getting a divorce and filing bankruptcy, you should make both your divorce attorney and your bankruptcy attorney aware of the situation. You want the divorce decree to specifically say you will not have to carry the entire amount of debt by yourself. If the divorce decree says that you are supposed to pay a certain debt and you file a Washington bankruptcy, your spouse can sue you if he or she ends up having to pay the debt. Often, it makes sense to file a bankruptcy together before you get divorced. 

There could, however, be a potential conflict of interest if one attorney represents both of you so that situation must be handled carefully and your attorney should carefully explain the situation so you can waive the conflict if you want to. Most attorneys will not accept a Chapter 13 case from a divorcing couple because a Chapter 13 lasts three to five years and the potential for conflict during that time is much too great.

If you are getting married soon and you think you need to file bankruptcy, it would probably be a good idea to discuss the situation with a Washington bankruptcy attorney and your fiancée. Our bankruptcy lawyers can help on this front too. Often, it makes sense to schedule a meeting in order to help the new spouse to understand why filing for bankruptcy is the best option.

New spouses would probably want the situation settled before the marriage. It would probably be a good idea to get a fresh start before starting a new life with a new spouse.  Our Washington bankruptcy attorneys are experienced in handling bankruptcy cases involving issues of divorce and community debts.  Our staff can help you sort through all the competing issues. If you are in too much debt and thinking about either marriage or divorce, it is important to contact an experienced attorney so you can start your new life in the best way possible.