Bankruptcy Law Questions? Ask a Bankruptcy Lawyer Now.
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The first thing you should know (and you may already know this) is that you may not be legally responsible for many of the debts (particularly those that were a result of “marital waste”). Wisconsin courts have ruled:
Although an equal division of property is presumed, WIS. STAT. § 767.255(3), the family court may deviate from an equal division after considering other factors enumerated in § 767.255(3). In particular, the court may consider each party's contribution to the marriage, § 767.255(3)(d), and, more particularly, "each party's efforts to preserve marital assets." Anstutz, 112 Wis.2d at 12, 331 N.W.2d 844. The court may require a party to pay the debts arising from his or her squandering of marital assets or the intentional or neglectful destruction of property. Id. at 12-13, 331 N.W.2d 844. "To require a party to share in the debts created by a spouse's unjustified depletion of marital assets would constitute a failure to consider the total contribution of each of the parties to the marital estate." Id. at 13, 331 N.W.2d 844.
Thus, Anstutz teaches that WIS. STAT. ch. 767 makes recompense available when one spouse has mismanaged or dissipated assets. Haack v. Haack, 149 Wis.2d 243, 253-54, 440 N.W.2d 794 (Ct.App.1989). Depending on the circumstances of the case, one spouse's failure to pay tax debts clearly can be considered the mismanagement or dissipation of assets and therefore marital waste. Covelli v. Covelli, 718 N.W.2d 260, 2006 WI App 121 (Wis. App., 2006).
Obviously, you will need to hire a skilled family law attorney in order to prove marital waste, but it is something you should seriously consider doing anyway, particularly since you husband is an attorney himself.
As for bankruptcy, your husband may file separately. There is no requirement for you two to file together. If you would like to try to work with your creditors rather than file for bankruptcy, then by all means do that. Bankruptcy should be a last resort since your credit will be ruined. Keep in mind that depending on your situation, you may need to buy a new house or get an apartment, or buy a car. In other words, because of the divorce, you may need to rely on your credit. On the other hand, if you have judgments against you that you didn’t even know existed, then your credit may already be very damaged, and bankruptcy may be the best option.
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