Husbands and wives can file bankruptcy cases separately

The city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has had an interesting experience in bankruptcy court lately.

A majority of the city council thought that Harrisburg, which is Pennsylvania’s capital city (left), should file for municipal bankruptcy, because of debt incurred revamping the city’s incinerator.

The mayor vetoed this plan, and the state government passed a law over the summer specifically prohibiting Harrisburg from filing a bankruptcy case.

Nevertheless, the council went ahead and authorized a bankruptcy petition. Then the bankruptcy judge threw the case out of court, citing the state legislature’s new law.

Now the city council’s lawyer has announced he will appeal that ruling to the federal district court.

A twisted story to be sure, and perhaps one worth following, but something similar can sometimes occur in personal bankruptcy cases when husbands and wives can’t agree on whether it would be right to file or not.

Sometimes, if they are splitting up, they can’t even talk about together any more. In other cases, all the debt belongs to one spouse but not the other.

Unlike the battle in Harrisburg, this is not really a problem, because husbands and wives are not duty bound to file joint cases in bankruptcy court; they can file separately, at the same time, after an interval, or one spouse can file and the other not file.

There is an advantage for those couples who can file together, though; at least here at my bankruptcy law practice in North Andover, there is no extra charge for a jointly filed case!


By Doug Beaton

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