What to know About Bankruptcy and Divorce in Florida
If you’re preparing to file for divorce and you and/or your spouse are contemplating filing for bankruptcy, you should familiarize yourself with how bankruptcy can affect your divorce and vice versa. Because every case is different, retaining a skilled Boca Raton divorce attorney is crucial to protecting your rights and assets.
To understand the impact of bankruptcy, it’s important to also understand how marital assets are distributed in a divorce. Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means assets and debts are split equally, which doesn’t mean 50/50 down the middle. The courts only render a decision on marital property, but non-marital property can sometimes get commingled and may be subject to distribution as well.
Bankruptcy filings are either Chapter 7, which discharges a majority or all unsecured debt, or Chapter 13, which is where you repay your creditors through a repayment plan. The bankruptcy filing type can change the timeline on how quickly the divorce is finalized, and one type may work better for couples filing for divorce first versus the bankruptcy first.
File Bankruptcy or Divorce First?
One of the first questions typically asked is whether the divorce should precede a bankruptcy filing or follow it. If you file the bankruptcy first, there is a chance that it might delay the divorce in some cases. The reason is the family court needs a comprehensive list of assets to understand what is to be allocated in the divorce. In some cases, you may not qualify to file for bankruptcy first because your joint income levels exceed the allotted threshold. This is one of the reasons you need to meet with an experienced Florida family law attorney right away.
Filing Separate or Joint?
The other most common question is whether someone should file jointly or separately. The risk of a bankruptcy filing being denied is higher when you file jointly because the combined income may be too high, especially if you’re filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Couples who have joint debts want to carefully weigh their options. If a joint debt becomes your ex-spouse’s sole responsibility as noted in the divorce decree, and your ex files bankruptcy, the creditor could attempt to come back after you for the original debt.
What Debts are Discharged?
If your ex-spouse thinks bankruptcy is the answer to their problems with child and/or spousal support awards, he or she will quickly learn that these are non-dischargeable. There are certain debts, like court-ordered support awards and medical bills, that do not fall under the category of debts that can be discharged.
Divorce Can Cause the Need for Bankruptcy
Sometimes, the divorce itself can create the need to file for bankruptcy. Spouses are now responsible for their own housing and utilities which can become overwhelming. Florida is an equitable distribution state for divorce purposes, which means assets and debts are allocated equally. Often times, the debts exceed the assets, which means debt needs to be repaid monthly.
Contacting a Boca Raton Divorce Attorney
The Law Offices of Schwartz | White is a leading family law firm in Boca Raton. If you’re preparing for a divorce and a potential bankruptcy filing, contact our office at 561.391.9943 to schedule a consultation.