Short Answer: Absolutely not.
This is a common question that I often get from clients. You can only file a joint bankruptcy case with a spouse. However, just because you are married does not mean that you have to file a joint bankruptcy in West Virginia. There are plenty of times where it is better to only have one spouse file bankruptcy. When advising our clients in West Virginia area, there are some things we consider when deciding if you should file a joint case:
1) Is the majority of the credit card debt etc. in one spouses name?
If so, this may be a reason to have just one spouse file bankruptcy.
2) Do you have any joint debts with your spouse?
If they are debts that you intend to keep, like mortgages or car loans, than you may consider to a single bankruptcy. However, if the debts that you want to get rid of are joint, then you may need to file a joint bankruptcy case to get the desired relief.
3) Are the debts that you want to discharge “joint accounts” or is one spouse just an “authorized user”? There is BIG difference.
An authorized user is not legally responsible for a debt as compared to a joint cardholder who is. If you’re not sure, it usually says on your credit report or you can obtain that information from the credit card company directly.
4) Medical Bills can be tricky.
Many of our clients who live in and around Martinsburg and Charles Town, West Virginia, utilize medical facilities in nearby northern Virginia. In West Virginia spouses are not responsible for the medical bills of their husband or wife. However, in Virginia they are. If you live in West Virginia and your spouse has medical bills incurred in Virginia, this should be a consideration in deciding whether to file a joint bankruptcy case.
5) Taxes can be tricky too.
One of the most powerful tools that we have available for our West Virginia bankruptcy clients is the ability to repay back taxes in a Chapter 13 plan. It allows you to repay taxes without incurring additional taxes and penalties. This alone can save you thousands.
However, if you file a joint tax return with your spouse, as most of us do, then your spouse will continue to get charged penalties and interest if only you file Chapter 13.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to filing a joint or single bankruptcy. It’s important that you talk to an experienced and qualified bankruptcy lawyer to get the right answers. At Hinkle Law, we help the consumers of West Virginia get a fresh start. Call us today.