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Duties of the Non-filing Spouse

Published May 28, 2015 by Sasser Law Firm

Though many times married people choose to file a joint bankruptcy case, it is also common for only one spouse to file. Usually this happens when the problematic debt a family is attempting to discharge is only owed by one of the spouses. In those situations, the question often arises: how involved in the process does the non-filing spouse need to be? In general, the non-filing spouse does not have to provide personal information. His name and address will not appear anywhere in the bankruptcy petition or schedules, unless he is a co-debtor with his wife on a particular debt or is the recipient of a transfer of assets from his wife in the two years prior to the case being filed. Neither will he have to disclose those assets of his in which the filing spouse (for purposes of this post, we’ll assume the wife) has no ownership interest. For example, if the non-filing husband owns real estate in fee simple, that land and his ownership of it will not have to be disclosed in the wife’s bankruptcy case. If the married couples owns a house together, though, then the property and the percentage ownership of the filing wife must be disclosed.

Perhaps the biggest burden on the non-filing husband is that his income for the last six months must be disclosed. Not only can this feel warrantlessly invasive, but it can also be time consuming for the husband if he is self-employed or has multiple sources of income. If the husband and wife’s combined income create means-testing or disposable income test problems in the filing wife’s case, the wife is permitted to deduct from these analyses those expenses of the husband that do not benefit the household (e.g.debt servicing of his own, hobbies, travel, vices, etc.).

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