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Ellen
Ellen, Attorney
Category: Bankruptcy Law
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Experience:  Bankruptcy Lawyer. Experienced.
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I cannot file chapter 7 bankruptcy without claiming my girlfriend

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I cannot file chapter 7 bankruptcy without claiming my girlfriend (unemployed and receiving unemployment but that is due to expire in approx 3 mos) and proceeding as a 2 person household. That qualifies me. She does contribute a minor amount of money to the monthly expenses - say $200 per month. But she will also need to file chapter 7 since her credit card debt and other debts can never be repaid given her current income and income outlook. So, I don't want to claim her in my bankruptcy if it impairs her ability to subsequently also delcare chapter 7. No attorney I have consulted seems to be prepared to answer this fully. I need help. Thanks!

Ashley in Florida
Welcome to JustAnswer,

So sorry to hear of this dilemma. I am a Florida attorney. If my answer is not clear to you or does not fully answer your question, please ask me for clarification by using the reply button.

Filing bankruptcy as a two-person household that includes your girlfriend will not affect your girlfriend's subsequent bankruptcy. This is not an unusual scenario where couples who are cohabitating are both filing bankruptcy

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you so much for your answer. My research has confirmed as much, but the critical question remaining since she is a slam dunk for chapter 7 as an individual, is under what guiidelines will she be governed by when she files? Does she have to say she is in a two person household as I did? If so, that would seem to impact the means test, and since her only income is unemployment, I don't want to impair her ability to also file chapter 7 (given my income). My income outlook is fair, ie, I don't anticipate further income reductions, but when her unemployment expires, we are not optimistic it will be replaced in the near to mid term with a comparable level of wages, if any. Thank you so much. I appreciate you taking your time to aid us in our quest for a debt-free life!
I apologize for the delay. I had signed off for the night when you responded.

Yes if she is living in your household, she will need to report that she is living in a two-person household. Whether or not you file bankruptcy will not have any impact at all on your girlfriend's ability to file.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Why is it that I get conflicting advice on whether I can claim my live-in girlfriend to make my household 2 vs 1? I have heard unequivocable statements that indicated I can AND others saying I can't. It's difficult not to be cynical when the former seems to be an established answer - so much so that it gave rise to the phrase "heads in beds." Why do some lawyers say as one did last night that claiming her, as I quoted from a lawyer's web-site indicating it was appropriate, was deemed by this lawyer last night to be "PATENTLY FALSE" Seems like an easy question. I'm in the So District of Florida, but BK is governed by US law, is it not? I know the expense amounts in the means test are localized, but such fundamental questions as the girlfriend should have copious evidence warranting it or discrediting it. What gives??? Thanks!
Are you referring to my statements or are you posing a question? I did not state that you would not claim your girlfriend to make a two-party household. I stated just the opposite. FYI I practice in the Southern District of Florida and I am a member of the bankruptcy bar
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Sorry for the confusion - it was another lawyer on this same site that said in no uncertain terms that I could not claim her so that I could file as a household size of 2. Why would other lawyers be so certain that I cannot claim her?

 

Thanks so much for your help!

The term "household" is not defined in the bankruptcy code. Therefore different courts have come to different conclusions regarding the definition. To the best of my knowledge, the Southern District of Florida looks to determine whether the occupants of the home comprise a "single economic unit"

Here are a few sites that discuss this issue:

http://www.bankruptcylawfortlauderdaleblog.com/means-test-and-household-size

http://www.chapter7attorneys.com/blogdetails.aspx?id=7c4d7c2e-4a04-4eb4-8b04-707cbca30e8e

http://www.bankruptcyorlando.com/2005/12/definition_of_h.html
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