Can Married Same-Sex Couples File Joint Bankruptcy?

If you are legally married to your spouse, the bankruptcy code allows both of you to file a joint bankruptcy case instead of filing two separate individual bankruptcy cases. A joint petition can be advantageous for many reasons. When a married couple files a joint petition for bankruptcy, they are only required to pay one filing fee. This saves the couple $335 in a chapter 7 case. A joint bankruptcy allows a married couple to resolve all of their debt issues at the same time, whether they have individual debts or joint debts. This saves time and hassle of going through two separate bankruptcies and dealing with substantially the same issues on two separate occasions.

Another advantage of a joint bankruptcy case are is that in Nevada joint debtors are able to double up on certain exemptions, thereby allowing them to protect more assets from creditors than they would in two separate individual bankruptcy cases. Joint debtors are also allowed to take the required credit counseling and debtor education classes together, instead of separately, which in turn can save them another $60. These all add up to make a joint filing less costly and more efficient for a married couple.

However, what about legally married same-sex couples? Are they allowed to file a joint bankruptcy petition? A handful of states have legalized same-sex marriage, but a lot have not yet. Nevada is one of those states where same-sex marriage has not yet been legalized. So up until recently, the answer to this question depended largely on what in what state you were filing the bankruptcy case. However, this question was recently put to rest for good.

Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) required the federal government to not recognize same-sex marriage, irrespective of whether state law allowed same-sex marriage or not. The Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of DOMA on June 26, 2013 in United States v. Windsor. This decision has paved the way for same-sex couples to enjoy many federal benefits allowed for married couples, including the right to file a joint bankruptcy petition.

As of February 10th, 2014, the Department of Justice announced they will give same-sex spouses full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law. In bankruptcy proceedings, this signifies that the Department of Justice through the United States Trustee’s Program, will take the position that legally married same-sex couples should be treated in the same manner as opposite-sex married couples. This includes the ability to file bankruptcy jointly.

The effect of the ruling in Windsor and the Department of Justice’s policy change now allows all legally married same-sex couples to file a joint bankruptcy petition in Las Vegas, Nevada. Conditional on the fact that the couple must be legally married in any state that has legalized same-sex marriage, they will be allowed to file a joint petition for bankruptcy and enjoy all the benefits that come with a joint filing. Half Price Lawyers is excited about this law change and strongly supports same-sex rights and is proud to represent legally married same-sex couples in joint bankruptcy. Please contact our office today to get started on your joint bankruptcy filing.

If you’re having issues with a divorce or bankruptcy, we can help. You can reach us at (702) 400-0000 in Las Vegas and (775) 400-0000 in Pahrump.

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