Filing for bankruptcy at the time of divorce

Question:Divorce lawyer Leslie Lorenzano

We are approaching our trial to figure out what debt of my wife’s I have to pay.

Can I file for bankruptcy on the court order saying what I have to pay? Or do I actually have to pay all of it back? If I do, will they go after her for the debt I file bankruptcy on?


Parties filing for bankruptcy at or near the time of dissolution of their marriage can be a common occurrence. As I do not know the specifics of your case, I can only speak in generalities based on my experience in family law.

You should probably consult a bankruptcy attorney with your specific questions on bankruptcy law, but I will give you some general advice on your dissolution based on my experience with clients who are also filing bankruptcy at the time of dissolution.

When you file bankruptcy, you may include your portion of joint debts from the marital estate, and any debts solely in your name. However, if you assume debts in your wife’s name in the dissolution, generally you will not be able to file bankruptcy on those debts, because assuming responsibility in the dissolution is an agreement between you and your wife, not an agreement between her creditors and you.

Since the creditors are not a party to your divorce proceeding, you cannot enter into a binding agreement with them through your dissolution stating that they will not pursue your wife if you cannot pay those debts.

Usually, we recommend that clients wait to finish their bankruptcy proceedings until the dissolution is complete, so that you know which debts you are assuming in the dissolution.

I would recommend you consult a bankruptcy attorney to determine which of your debts you may include in your bankruptcy proceeding, and which would not be accepted.

Generally speaking, if you assume debt in the dissolution like child support or maintenance, you cannot discharge that debt in bankruptcy. Discharging other liabilities, like credit card debts and car loans, usually depends on whose name the debts are in.

Cordell & Cordell has divorce attorneys located nationwide.


Leslie Lorenzano is a Staff Attorney in the Indianapolis, Indiana office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Lorenzano is licensed in the state of Indiana and the U.S. District Court Sothern District of Indiana. Ms. Lorenzano received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Purdue University, and her Juris Doctor from the University of Arizona – James E. Rogers College of Law.

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