What Happens if I Get Married During My Bankruptcy Case?

February 22, 2017

Getting married can be one of the greatest blessings in life. However, it can sometimes create a negative effect on getting relief in a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.  Getting married during the middle of a bankruptcy case can potentially alter what is required to achieve debt relief in bankruptcy. 

Getting Married During the Middle of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

If you get married after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is filed but before you receive the discharge, there is usually no changes in requirements for your case. Although Chapter 7 bankruptcy does look at the total household to determine available income, Chapter 7 debt relief is usually unaffected by a brand new marriage because it your case is completed in a very short period of time. The total case only usually takes 4 to 5 months from the date of filing to the date of discharge.  Therefore, a new marriage in this short time period may not be taken greatly into consideration.   

Getting married in the middle of your Chapter 7 case usually will not affect the outcome. In chapter 7, the court usually considers all past debts to be dischargable in the case.  Chapter 7 looks more into the past than the future in most aspects.  There is not a substantial look forward into the financial capacity of the debtor’s household like in Chapter 13.   Although the Courts could hold you responsible to pay part of your debts through your new spouse’s future income contributions, this is not how it usually plays out during the fresh-start type system of Chapter 7.

Getting Married During the Middle of a Chapter 13 Case

Getting married during the middle of a chapter 13 case can have a greater impact on what repayment requirements you must follow during your Chapter 13 plan. Although the court may vary on how it treats a new marriage situation from case to case, generally the rule is that your total household income and expenses determine how much of your debts you must repay during your Chapter 13. Therefore, it is possible in some situations that you will be required to pay a higher payment if you get married during your Chapter 13 case.

However, the court may take into consideration the totality of the circumstances when determining whether a new spouse should contribute towards the repaying of debts. In cases where the new marriage occurs close to the beginning of the case, there is a higher likelihood that the new spouse’s income will be required to contribute towards Chapter 13 plan payments.  In cases where the marriage occurs near the end of the Chapter 13 case, there may be an argument against the new spouse being required to contribute towards any repayment of debts.  This argument may also be strengthened if the new spouse has no connection to the former spouse’s debts.  Other factors to consider may include if the new relationship commenced after the confirmation (acceptance by the court) of the Chapter 13 plan.

Completing Bankruptcy Relief Before a New Marriage Begins

Completing your your bankruptcy relief before a new marriage is usually a good idea. Remember, bringing two income earners together can drastically change the combined total household income. In many cases, individuals are eligible for Chapter 7, but as a new couple they are not eligible.  These couples could get forced into filing an unwanted Chapter 13 if bankruptcy relief is desperately needed.  Therefore, if you considering bankruptcy relief, it may be wise to complete the bankruptcy process before entering a new marriage situation.

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