Should I File for Bankruptcy if My Spouse Has a Good Financial Situation?

Filing for bankruptcy without your spouse might be a good option if you have lots of debts and you'd like to preserve your spouse's credit.

By , Attorney · Case Western Reserve University School of Law


I have debts from a business. I have little income, but my spouse has a good job. Should I file for bankruptcy?

When Does Bankruptcy Make Sense For My Family?

If creditors can collect from jointly owned assets, bankruptcy might be a good way to protect those assets. However, your spouse's income will be included in the bankruptcy, making it harder to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and affecting how much you must pay to unsecured creditors in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Learn more by reading Are You Personally Liable for Business Debts?

Can Creditors Collect From Your Spouse?

Depending on the laws of your state, your spouse might not be liable for the debts you've incurred individually. However, even if your spouse isn't obligated, a potential judgment creditor might be able to collect from you and your spouse.

For instance, if the two of you jointly own assets—such as a bank account she deposits income into—then a judgment creditor might be able to "levy" or withdraw funds from the account. For more information, read Bank Levies on Joint Accounts (Spouse).

Filing for bankruptcy might be a good option, assuming you meet the eligibility requirements. Your spouse doesn't have to file bankruptcy with you, and probably shouldn't, especially if she has little or no debts.

Including Your Spouse's Income in Bankruptcy

If you want to take care of the debt by filing for bankruptcy, you must include your wife's income if you share the same household—even if you file alone. Since your wife's income is appreciable, it might affect your eligibility to receive a discharge in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

But there's an exception. You don't need to meet income qualifications if most of your debts are business debt. You can learn more by reading about the Chapter 7 means test.

Your wife's income will also affect the amount you'd pay in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You can learn more by reading Your Obligations Under a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan.

How to Reduce a Nonfiling Spouse's Income in Bankruptcy

Although you must include your nonfiling spouse's income, you might be able to take deductions and pass the means test or lower your disposable income. The marital adjustment deduction allows you to deduct some of your spouse's personal expenses if they're paid with her own separate income. You can exclude that portion because it isn't used to support your household.

Disability Eligibility Quiz Take our bankruptcy quiz to identify potential issues and learn how to best proceed with your bankruptcy case.
Get Professional Help
Get debt relief now.
We've helped 205 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you