Marriage can be a super scary proposition……especially when the love of your life is loaded down with debt. I want you to take a deep breath and relax because marrying a person who has tons of debt is not going to make you liable for said debt in any way shape or form. Georgia is not a community property state. The only way you can be held liable on a debt is if you sign a contract. Do you feel better now?
As a general rule, I think it is best for the person loaded with debt to file bankruptcy before the marriage takes place so you can begin your new life together with a fresh start. If you wait until after the wedding takes place, the income of both spouses will count in the bankruptcy means test. In other words, if you are a high income earner, you could end up disqualifying your spouse from being eligible to file bankruptcy if you wait until after the wedding.
However, if the person filing bankruptcy has high income and the other person has no income, it might make sense to wait until after the wedding so that the person who has no income will be counted as a member of the household in the means test. In a case like this, marriage might actually help make a person eligible to file bankruptcy.
Debt issues you might need consider before marriage
- For IRS purposes, if you sign a joint tax return after your marriage, you will be held liable for the joint tax debt. It does not matter if they are the ones who generated all the taxes. If you sign the joint tax return, your assets are at risk.
- If you have a joint checking account, your spouse might get sued and your joint checking account could get cleaned out by their creditor.
- If you own a house together jointly, your spouse could get a judgment lien recorded on your house if they are a joint owner.
- Student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. How much student loan debt does your spouse owe? How many years will it be before they pay it off?
Take Advantage of a Free Consultation!
The smart move is to meet with a qualified bankruptcy attorney before you get married. Get a review of your entire situation. Naturally, you want to make your marriage as strong as possible. Starting out on solid economic footing is a great place to begin.