Considering bankruptcy and engaged to be married? Which should you do first?

If you’re planning to get married in the near future, it’s always best for you and your spouse-to-be to talk with each other honestly about your finances. This includes not just your current financial situation, but your attitudes towards spending vs. savings and your goals for the future. No one wants to find out after they’ve tied the knot that their new spouse has tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt or that they have a serious gambling problem.

What if you or your partner is considering filing for bankruptcy to get out from under that debt and get a fresh start? Is it better to do that before you get married or wait until afterward?

Either way, any debt incurred before marriage is legally the responsibility only of the person who owes it. Their spouse can’t be held responsible. Likewise, a bankruptcy filed by one spouse (before or after marriage) won’t impact the other’s credit. However, it can hurt your chances of getting any kind of loan together for a while – like a mortgage. Chapter 7 stays on your credit report for a decade, and Chapter 13 remains there for seven years.

If the person who’s in debt would like to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it’s often best to do so before you wed in order to stay below the qualifying income threshold. Your income alone may be low enough that you can qualify for Chapter 7. However, if you’re married when you file, your spouse’s income will also be considered as a means of support, which may disqualify you from this type of bankruptcy. Chapter 13 could still be a possibility, but that requires a repayment plan, which will impact your spouse.

If you and your intended are both facing serious debt issues and considering bankruptcy, it may be best to wait until after you’re married and file together. By having one joint bankruptcy case, you can save on legal fees and court costs.

These are just a few considerations. It’s wise to talk over your individual situation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to determine the best course of action for your case.