What if Your Ex-Spouse Files for Bankruptcy?
If your ex-spouse declares bankruptcy while you are still married and your divorce has not been finalized, it could significantly impact you financially. Determining how your property, assets, finances, and debts are distributed when you divorce will be essential to the settlement process.
Unfortunately, a bankruptcy declaration can have a significant impact on these plans. Understanding how your plans could be affected by your ex’s bankruptcy declaration could considerably impact how you move forward with your divorce and plan accordingly.
What Kinds of Bankruptcy are There?
There are multiple types of bankruptcy that your ex-spouse could file for. Each has its own rules, regulations, and expectations. It is crucial to understand which type of bankruptcy your ex has filed for so you can understand their financial obligations and how long it will take for the bankruptcy to be resolved.
These are the following types of bankruptcy that are most common for divorcés:
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy – With Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your ex will be selling and liquidating their assets. Once the assets have been sold, the proceeds will be used to pay off your ex’s creditors. Any remaining debts will then be discharged.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy – Chapter 13 bankruptcy helps individuals retain possession of their assets while they pay off their creditors over the next three to five years, according to the repayment plan.
- Chapter 11 bankruptcy – Chapter 11 bankruptcy is like Chapter 13 bankruptcy, except it’s just for business owners, so they can keep their doors open while they pay down their debt. Business owners will have up to five years to pay off their creditors.
How Do I Find Out About Bankruptcy Filings?
In many cases, you may be unaware that your ex-spouse is filing for bankruptcy unless they notify you. Your attorney may find out as they begin working on your divorce settlement.
However, bankruptcy filings are often available for public records. Additionally, if your spouse declares bankruptcy before you have divorced, you may be on the hook for your spouse’s debts.
You may discover that your ex has declared bankruptcy when creditors reach out to you, hoping to repay the debt. Suppose you are interested in finding out whether your ex-spouse has declared bankruptcy. In that case, you may need their full name, Social Security number, and other personal information to search online or through public records.
What if We Had Joint Debts after the Divorce?
If you had joint debts before your divorce, and your ex files for bankruptcy while you are still married, you may be responsible for the shared debts. You may be stuck repaying this debt until it is paid off or be forced to forfeit the property in question.
You can work with your bankruptcy attorney to determine the best option for your case. If it is more cost-effective to pay the debt, your attorney may advise you accordingly. However, in some instances, you may be able to take your ex-spouse to court to force them to cover their debts so you do not get stuck covering them.
How Could I Enforce the Court Order?
Enforcing the terms of your divorce decree can be challenging without the help of an attorney. You will need to bring notices from creditors, public bankruptcy records, and other evidence that can show your ex-spouse is not adhering to the terms of your divorce settlement.
Your attorney will be responsible for showing that your ex violates a court order. If this happens, they could be found in contempt of court. They could be fined or even arrested for failing to follow the court order.
What Can I Do to Protect Myself Before My Ex Files Bankruptcy?
If you are hoping to protect yourself before your ex-spouse officially declares bankruptcy, there are specific steps you can take. These include:
- Including clauses in your divorce decree to protect your own property
- Including clauses in your divorce decree to protect yourself from your ex-spouse’s debts
- Opening your divorce case for revisions if your ex declares bankruptcy and it affects you negatively
- Selling any property you jointly owned with your ex-spouse
- Paying off and closing any of your spousal credit cards
- Refinancing loans to the respective parties’ names
Call Luftman, Heck & Associates in Cleveland for Help with Your Case
Our team of Cleveland bankruptcy attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates, LLP are here to help you get through these difficult times. You may be ready to head for a divorce, but your ex-spouse’s sudden bankruptcy could impact your case.
Having a dedicated bankruptcy attorney on your side could give you an advantage in your case. When you are ready to start protecting yourself and your financial interests, do not hesitate to contact our team for a free consultation. You can reach us through our online contact form or by phone at (216) 586-6600 to get started.