If I Am Married, Do I Have to Include My Spouse in Filing Bankruptcy?

In short, the answer is “no,” but please allow us to explain.

Married couples often wonder if they must file for bankruptcy individually or jointly. The bankruptcy code permits individuals the option of filing jointly or individually. There are several things that couples must consider when making that decision. Those things may include whether they own property jointly and whether they have joint debt.

Filing for Bankruptcy Individually
There’s a common misconception that people who are married must file for bankruptcy together. Married couples do not have to file together, but there are both benefits and disadvantages of filing individually.

If the debt has accumulated with one person in the marriage, that person can file for bankruptcy to be released from the debt obligations. By filing individually, the debtor can receive a discharge of the debt, while allowing the non-filing spouse to preserve his or her credit score. Additionally, there can be other advantages that are specific to both chapter 13 or chapter 7, which can be discussed on a case by case basis.

The main disadvantage to filing individually arises when one spouse files bankruptcy on a joint debt, as the bankruptcy does not prevent the creditor from collecting from the non-filing spouse. Also, in some cases, an individual filing may also have a negative effect on the other spouse’s credit. Finally, the Trustee may request financial information from the non-filing spouse, such as paystubs and tax returns.

Filing Jointly
Although married couples can file for bankruptcy individually, they can also file jointly. There are benefits and drawbacks to filing for bankruptcy this way.

The most beneficial aspect of a joint case is the ability to resolve both parties’ debts in a single filing. This means that they will only pay one filing fee and the couple will be able to attend court hearings together, and all their debt will be relieved through one bankruptcy.


The main drawback of a joint bankruptcy filing is that both parties’ credit scores will be affected and both debtors are under the jurisdiction of the bankruptcy court. Meaning, all property owned is property of the bankruptcy estate and subject to being examined.