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My ex husband is filing bankruptcy, how can I protect myself from his creditors

Janesville, WI |

Per the settlement agreement, I kept the house and pay for everything related to it. I've made three attempts to refi his name off, but in this market have been unsuccesful. We each took our own credit card debt and boat loans. Now he is filing bankruptcy. We have no children. I own my car, title is in my name. Can the creditors take that away from me? I still owe on my boat, can they take that away? I just found out he did not file a quit claim deed on the house, even though he said he had, and I hired a lawyer to get that done prior to my ex filing for bankruptcy, and am hoping to be protected there. My biggest fear is his huge credit card debt, $51 + and $20K + personal loan. I am not on the card or personal loan, but I am concerned I will lose my property.

Attorney Answers 2


Relax. It sounds like you're doing most of the right things.

Your lawyer should monitor the bankruptcy for you and make sure your ex-husband adheres to his contractual obligations under your settlement agreement. You did not say whether there is substantial equity in your home over and above the mortgage and liens. Perhaps not. In any case, ask your attorney whether you should file a claim in the bankruptcy case.

But to your primary concern: if the debt is entirely separate it is unlikely his creditors will even attempt to seek to collect from you. His credit card debt and personal loan are his problem not yours and your settlement agreement should have made this clear. Indeed, most settlement agreements also contain a hold harmless and indemnification provision, and permit recovery of attorney's fees from the defaulting spouse.

This response is offered for general guidance and educational purposes. It is not to be relied upon as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by exchange of emails alone.

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I do not share the laid back sentiments of my New Jersey colleague. Perhaps that is because I am licensed to practice law in the State of Wisconsin, where we have marital property law, and he practices in New Jersey, where they don't.

If your husband's name still appears on the deed to the house, the house will be an asset that he will be required to list in his bankruptcy case. In every bankruptcy case, the person who filed (the "Debtor") is allowed to exempt (protect) certain types of their property up to certain value limits. If the house has any equity in it, you will want to ensure that your ex claims an exemption in the equity in the house because you are not allowed to claim exemptions on your own behlaf in his bankruptcy case. You will need to work with a local bankruptcy attorney to ensure that you are doing all that you can do to protect your assets.

With respect to whether you can expect to lose any of your property in his bankruptcy case, the majority of what you own does not become property of his bankruptcy case and is not subject to being sold to pay his creditors. The house is an exception and it may be affected by his bankruptcy filing.

With respect to whether any of "his" creditors will pursue you now that he has filed a bankruptcy case, any medical bill creditor of his that holds a claim for medical services provided while you were married can pursue you for payment of the claim regardless of whether he was ordered to pay it in the marital settlement agreement (MSA). Although you indicate that he agreed to pay his accounts and you agreed to pay yours in the MSA, you need to make sure none of those accounts were joint accounts or any creditor with whom you had a joint credit account can pursue you if he does not pay the account as agreed. Lastly, in rare circumstances, the bankruptcy court can undo the divorce property division if the court determines that the debtor did not receive an equitable 1/2 of the martital property in the divorce.

All things you should discuss with a local bankruptcy attorney. In your area, the bankruptcy specialists are in Madison, which is a hike but you have the type of case that lends itself well to mostly phone interactions with your attorney and if your husband filed his bankruptcy case in the western 1/2 of the state, all of the court hearings will be in Madison anyway. I suggest you call Joe Engl in Madison at (608) 258-8555.

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