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Can Lakelaw file a joint bankruptcy petition for us if we are a same-sex couple?

Posted on Feb 12, 2014 in Bankruptcy Information, Chapter 13

At Lakelaw, we have filed a joint bankruptcy petition for a same-sex couple.  We had a couple we’ll call Daniel and Anthony.  The couple married in a state that permits same-sex marriage, since their home state, Wisconsin, does not.  Still, we filed the bankruptcy for them as a couple instead of filing separate bankruptcy petitions and consolidating (linking them together).  Thus far, the case has been a success and has met no objection from the Chapter 13 Trustee or United States Trustee.

With news this weekend that the Attorney General of the US will recognize same-sex marriage and expand the benefits for lawful same-sex marriages nationwide (link to  http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/08/politics/holder-same-sex-marriage-rights/), this process will soon be even easier for thousands of same-sex couples in marriages from around the nation.  .

Illinois is one of the 16 states that already recognizes same-sex marriage.  So a joint bankruptcy petition for a lawfully married couple regardless of their sexual orientation should not be a problem, as long as the couple meets the other requirements of the chapter of bankruptcy they seek.  It’s a good idea to speak with an attorney before filing to discuss those requirements from the bankruptcy code.

We predict more states, even those like Wisconsin that do not recognize gay marriage, will see many more joint bankruptcy petitions from gay and lesbian married couples.  The new threshold question won’t be “are you in a marriage defined as a man and a woman?” but “is your marriage ‘lawful’?”  As more and more states permit same-sex marriage, the answer that question will more and more be yes.

The changes don’t just impact bankruptcy.  The changes mean that spouses in same sex marriage get federal survivorship benefits and don’t have to testify against one another in a criminal trial.  But one of the biggest impacts will be the ability to go hand-in-hand toward financial relief by filing bankruptcy together.

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