Here’s a question that comes up frequently: I need to file for bankruptcy. Does that mean my spouse also must file?
The short answer is no. Your spouse is not required to file bankruptcy just because you do. If the non-filing spouse does not owe anything, or owes very little, the debtor can simply file a “married filing individually” petition. The advantage of this type of petition is that at least one spouse’s credit rating is protected.
Now, I must point out is that even if your spouse does not file there is quite a bit of information about your spouse’s finances that will need to be provided in your paperwork. This is because the trustee wants to make sure that all assets (separate, community and joint) are disclosed, that assets haven’t been transferred from one spouse to another, and that the assets are categorized correctly. California is a community property state and so an asset may be community property even if title is in the name of one spouse. For example, say your spouse bought a car after you got married but the title is only in his/her name. According to community property rules, that car may actually be community property and would need to be listed on your bankruptcy petition. Apart from listing all assets, your non-filing spouse’s income also needs to be disclosed in the petition. Same reasoning – California is a community property state and so the trustee is going to look at the total household income – not just yours – in evaluating your petition.
As always in bankruptcy law, there are nuances here and there, so its best to talk with an attorney about the specifics of your case.