Struggling through an unhappy marriage can be stressful for anyone — but when you add in debt and financial troubles, things become even more difficult. If you’re balancing both of these issues, you may be considering what legal options you have to resolve things — which is typically when divorce and bankruptcy come to mind.
However, if you’re thinking about filing for both of these legal matters simultaneously, you may want to take a step back. While it is technically possible to file divorce and bankruptcy at the same time, it’s not always the best idea.
Filing for Divorce and Bankruptcy Simultaneously
Should I File For Divorce and Bankruptcy at the Same Time?
As mentioned above, you can legally file for divorce and bankruptcy at the same time. However, doing so can actually slow or complicate the process of one versus the other.
This is because, immediately after you file for bankruptcy, an “automatic stay” is put into place that freezes your assets and stops creditors from calling you. If you filed for divorce at the same time, the automatic stay most likely will also prevent the divorce court from distributing your assets, a huge part of the divorce process.
If this happens, your divorce process can last much longer than it would have if you only filed one legal matter at a time.
Should I File for Divorce or Bankruptcy First?
If you decide to file for and resolve one issue before the other, your personal circumstances can dictate which you should opt for first.
When It May Be Best to File Bankruptcy First
When It’s an Amicable Divorce
If you and your spouse are divorcing amicably, filing for bankruptcy together first may be a good way for both of you to discharge certain debts before going through the divorce process as well as take advantage of certain exemptions together. Additionally, jointly filing for bankruptcy allows you to share the filing and attorney fees.
When You Want a Quick Divorce
Depending on the type of bankruptcy you file, it can take various amounts of time for your debts to be discharged. If you’re looking to get divorced quickly, it may be wise to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, so long as you qualify, since this typically only takes three months to eliminate your dischargeable debt.
When It May Be Best to File Divorce First
When You are Filing for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
If you have significant assets or income, you may have to file for Chapter 13 over Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Since Chapter 13 can be a three to five-year process, filing this before you and your spouse divorce can significantly drag out the divorce process or cause problems with your Chapter 13 bankruptcy. For this reason, you may want to consider filing for divorce first or at least should consult with a divorce and bankruptcy attorney prior to filing.
When You Do Not Want to Pay for Debt in Your Ex’s Name
Some of the financial issues you’re facing may be entirely of your spouse’s making. If that’s the case, you may not want to have your credit affected by jointly filing for bankruptcy or be responsible for paying off those debts, making filing for divorce first a good plan.
Filing for Bankruptcy After a Divorce
In some cases, you may not have ever planned to file for bankruptcy — but switching to a single income household proved to have a bigger impact on your financial situation than you planned. In situations like these, you may consider bankruptcy to discharge personal debts you can no longer afford on a smaller income.
While this may work for some of your debts, filing for bankruptcy after divorce still will not affect certain necessary payments such as child support or alimony. If you are owed these payments or you’re having trouble making them after divorce, it’s essential to speak to a skilled attorney to see if a bankruptcy filing may free up your other available income to pay these expenses.
Divorce and Bankruptcy Attorneys in Livingston County
When you’re working through the complicated issues of bankruptcy and divorce, you need a skilled attorney with experience in both these areas on your side.