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How Bankruptcy Affects Your Spouse

Vivona Pandurangi, PLC March 2, 2022

Depressed businessman due to bankruptcyLife's financial curveballs can strike unexpectedly and make it difficult for you to pay bills or meet your financial obligations. Thankfully, filing for bankruptcy is among the promising options to help married couples facing financial distress achieve debt relief. However, before you file for bankruptcy, it is vital to understand how your bankruptcy petition will affect your spouse. Our knowledgeable Virginia bankruptcy attorneys can enlighten you about the impact of bankruptcy on your spouse and help you navigate key decisions.

At Vivona Pandurangi, PLC, we have the skill, knowledge, and diligence to advise and guide individuals, couples, and families in bankruptcy-related matters. Our trusted attorneys can discuss your unique financial situation and help you understand how filing for bankruptcy might affect your spouse. Whether you are planning to file individually or jointly, we will enlighten you about the benefits and drawbacks and help you make intelligent decisions. Our firm proudly serves clients in Falls Church, Alexandria, Arlington, Manassas, Loudon County, Fairfax County, and Prince William County, Virginia.

Separate Property vs. Marital Property in Virginia

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, a married couple's assets are categorized into two – separate property and marital property.

Separate Property

Under Virginia law, any asset owned by only one spouse is referred to as separate property. This includes any property owned or purchased before the marriage, personal gifts or inheritance during the marriage, and damages recovered through a personal injury claim.

Marital Property

Conversely, marital property or community property comprises all assets and debts accrued during the couple's marriage. These include the marital home, cars, royalties, furniture pieces, credit card charges, income, stocks, bank accounts, 401k accounts, rents, pension plans, and all other assets accumulated during their marriage.

Filing Bankruptcy as an Individual

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, married couples may be eligible to file for bankruptcy as an individual or at the same time as separate individuals. Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of filing bankruptcy as an individual:


  • The non-filing spouse's separate property will not be affected.

  • Individual bankruptcy eliminates some of the general unsecured debt of the indebted spouse.

  • You can preserve the good credit rating of the non-filing spouse.

  • You can protect more assets and property by filing simultaneously as separate individuals.


  • Creditors can come after the non-filing spouse's assets and income.

  • If you're legally married, you must include the income of the non-filing spouse.

  • Filing simultaneously as separate individuals will incur additional court costs and attorney fees.

  • If you and your spouse make a lot of money, you are likely to fail the Chapter 7 "means test."

Filing Bankruptcy as a Couple

Also, legally married couples in Virginia may be allowed to file their bankruptcy petition together – joint bankruptcy. Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of filing bankruptcy as a couple:


  • Filing together can help save attorney fees and court costs.

  • Filing jointly helps eliminate the general unsecured debt of both spouses.

  • You can keep more assets and property by filing jointly.

  • Filing jointly only requires one bankruptcy petition. Hence, it is efficient and more convenient.

  • Filing jointly makes it possible to streamline the entire bankruptcy process.

  • Filing jointly makes you eligible for twice the number of exemptions.


  • Filing jointly will harm both spouses' credit ratings.

  • If the other spouse recently filed for bankruptcy, only one spouse will be eligible to file for bankruptcy.

If you're facing financial hardship and considering filing for bankruptcy, you need to reach out to an experienced bankruptcy lawyer immediately. Your attorney can enlighten you about the factors to consider and determine whether to file separately or jointly.

Factors to Consider

Here are some essential things to consider to help determine the filing option that is right for your unique situation:

  • The amount of separate or marital property you own.

  • The spouse who owes the majority of the debt.

  • Whether you are separated or considering filing for divorce.

  • Whether you or your spouse previously filed for bankruptcy.

Our knowledgeable bankruptcy attorneys can evaluate your unique financial situation and help determine the best course of action.

Let Vivona Pandurangi, PLC Help

Filing for bankruptcy in the Commonwealth of Virginia involves a lot of complex procedures. Whether you are filing separately or together with your partner, the amount of separate or marital assets you have can make a huge difference in your bankruptcy case. Our knowledgeable bankruptcy attorneys can explore your possible legal options and help you make the right decision.

At Vivona Pandurangi, PLC, our attorneys have devoted their careers to offering outstanding legal services and guiding clients through the complexities of bankruptcy proceedings. As your legal counsel, we can work to understand your financial situation, enlighten you about your available bankruptcy options, and determine the ideal chapter that best fits your unique needs.

Also, our dedicated team will help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of filing separately or jointly. Using their extensive experience, our attorneys will guide you through the bankruptcy proceedings from start to finish and help you navigate crucial decisions.

Contact us at Vivona Pandurangi, PLC, to schedule a simple consultation with well-informed bankruptcy attorneys. Our experienced team has the personalized legal counsel and reliable advocacy you need to pursue financial relief. We're proud to serve clients in Falls Church, Alexandria, Arlington, Manassas, and throughout the counties of Loudon, Fairfax, and Prince William, Virginia.