Law Office of Kevin L. Beard, P.A.

Divorce and bankruptcy: What couples need to know

If financial problems weren't already a factor before you headed into a divorce, they may soon become one. Divorce can be expensive.

There are a few inescapable financial facts about divorce. It costs money to file for divorce and to hire an attorney. If you have children, you may have to pay child support. You may have to pay spousal support as well. The money that used to provide for one household now has to provide for two. Given that only 39 percent of Americans can manage to come up with a $1,000 even in an emergency, the reality of a divorce often means that one or both halves of a couple will have to file for bankruptcy.

If this is your situation, take comfort that you aren't alone. Then start gathering as much information as you can before you make a decision about what to do next. Far too many couples on the brink of divorce and bankruptcy rush ahead with one or the other without complete information.

To protect your interests, here's what you need to do instead:

  • Ask questions. Don't be afraid (or embarrassed) to admit that you're financially struggling and planning a bankruptcy to your attorney.
  • Find out exactly whose name is one which accounts -- your's or your spouse's (or both). That's important because the division of debts can influence both your decision to file bankruptcy and your divorce settlement.
  • Don't take your bankruptcy advice from a divorce attorney. By the same token, don't take your divorce advice from a bankruptcy attorney. Unless your attorney happens to handle both types of issues, you could be missing something important.
  • Consider the benefits of filing jointly with your spouse prior to the divorce. It often makes both the bankruptcy process easier (thanks to larger exemptions and shared costs) and the divorce process easier (because there is less debt to wrangle over).

Ultimately, you need to center your choices around whatever will leave you in the best position to move forward once your divorce is over. If that means filing bankruptcy first, consider one more step in the entire divorce process.

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