The short and not very helpful answer is maybe. If you file to discharge joint debts, that will likely appear on your spouse’s credit report. Creditors will be notified of your filing, and will likely come after your spouse for payment of debts. Whether and how much one spouse’s filing for bankruptcy will affect the other’s credit also depends on whether you file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, and also on what the laws of your particular state of primary residence are.
Property owned outright by your spouse may be protected, particularly if they were acquired prior to marriage, but jointly owned properties and debts are another matter. A bankruptcy trustee may sell any jointly owned property to pay off debts, but how property is treated depends largely on whether you reside in a Common Law Property State or a Community Property State.
If you live in a Common Law Property State and you file for bankruptcy, your assets and those you own jointly with your spouse are liable to be sold to satisfy debt obligations, whereas those held outright by your spouse are to some degree protected. Still, a bankruptcy trustee may sell an entire property jointly owned if it is not clearly divisible under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. He would then reimburse your spouse for their portion in funds.
If you live in a Community Property State, virtually everything acquired during the time of the marriage is liable to be seized. It is very important, therefore, to declare bankruptcy early if you have significant debts that you think you will be unable to discharge. Because you are jointly liable for all property held in common, a bankruptcy declaration is liable to have a significant impact on your spouse’s property and credit. This liability covers income as well as assets acquired during the course of marriage. Once you have discharged your debts through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, creditors may be able to come after your spouse’s property, but only for debts for which they are personally liable. Because your spouse is jointly responsible for all mutually owned property, which includes all income and assets acquired during the marriage, the spouse also is discharged from debt obligations at the time of settlement, in what is commonly known as a phantom discharge.
A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy filing can sometimes help to protect a spouse, by way of a codebtor stay that prohibits creditors from going after a codebtor (in this case, your spouse), but debtors may request that a court lift a codebtor protection.
As you can see, there are a variety of different scenarios, which can seem quite complicated and daunting. The expert team at Burr Law know all the ropes, and will take the tack that best suits your particular situation, so that you can get back on track as quickly and as painlessly as possible. You’re not just discharging your debts. You’re discharging a great weight off your mind. Reach out to Burr Law. They can help.