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Personal bankruptcy and divorce

The end of a marriage can be an emotionally painful experience, but the actual process of divorce itself is largely a financial matter. If the couple does not have young children, and therefore does not have to negotiate custody and parenting plans, the legal work of the divorce consists almost entirely of dividing the marital property and debts.

The subject of debts brings up another legal area that sometimes goes nearly hand-in-hand with divorce: personal bankruptcy.

Divorce and property division can bring a financial shock. Many people go through the process and find it hard to get by without a partner’s income. They need help getting their finances under control, and so they file for personal bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 soon after the divorce is finalized. However, in some cases it may be wiser to file for bankruptcy before filing for divorce.

It’s a good idea to talk to an attorney about this possibility early in the divorce process. Bankruptcy may give people the chance to get rid of marital debts before they are divorced, so they don’t have to take their share of these debts with them after the end of the marriage. In other cases, it could make more sense to file for divorce before filing for bankruptcy.

Many people going through divorce may find the 3-5 years required to complete Chapter 13 bankruptcy too long to wait before filing for divorce. Chapter 7 is much faster, but has very different eligibility requirements.

A good divorce attorney will advise clients on their options for reducing debt and returning to financial health after divorce. Those who are concerned that their debts are getting out of their control should ask their divorce attorneys about the possibility of personal bankruptcy.