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Which comes first: Divorce or bankruptcy?

Financial difficulties plague many Florida families. In some cases, they contribute to marital problems that may be temporary or could mean the end of the marriage. If this happened in your case, you may be wondering whether you can afford to file for divorce considering the fact that you may start your new life with a significant amount of debt.

You and your spouse may discuss the possibility of filing for bankruptcy since you incurred most of your debts jointly, but the question you both ask is whether you should file before you file for divorce or after.

The pros of filing before the divorce

If your circumstances allow you the luxury of waiting to file for divorce, then you may consider waiting until after the bankruptcy is finalized for the following reasons:

  • Since both of you will end up with debts after the divorce, it could mean two filings. Instead, the two of you could share the costs, documentation and work involved.
  • The exemptions for a married couple are higher than they are for an individual. It may be possible to keep assets that you may otherwise not be able to when filing alone.
  • Filing prior to the divorce could eliminate the need to deal with debts during the divorce. Even if you fail to receive a discharge for all of your debts, you still have less to deal with during the divorce.

You may want to keep in mind that your combined incomes could prevent you from filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The pros of filing after divorce

Your divorce may need to come prior to filing for bankruptcy for the following reasons:

  • If you have children, you may need to resolve issues regarding custody, visitation and support sooner rather than later.
  • You may need spousal support, but your future former spouse refuses to provide it without a court order.
  • Your combined incomes may prevent you from filing under Chapter 7.

You may wonder whether you could "kill two birds with one stone" and file for divorce and bankruptcy at the same time. This often creates far too many issues since it will be nearly impossible to resolve property division issues with an ongoing bankruptcy. There may be limited circumstances under which you would receive enough benefit from going through both court proceedings at the same time.

In any case, you may want to research all of your options thoroughly before making any decisions in order to help ensure you receive the most benefit possible from whichever route you choose.

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