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Same-sex spouses now eligible for joint bankruptcy

In a surprising announcement that took place over the weekend, Attorney General Eric Holder outlined a set of major changes to federal law enforcement for same-sex married couples. The federal government has previously stated changes to the federal approach to same-sex marriage in the wake of last summer’s Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, including the ability to jointly file federal income taxes. Now, same-sex couples who are legally married have the option of filing jointly for bankruptcy, even if they no longer live in a state where their marriage is legally recognized.

Married couples who experience financial distress and have debt that they are unable to pay off given their current earnings have the option of filing for bankruptcy jointly. Whether or not this approach is advantageous depends on the specifics of the case, but having the equal opportunity to take advantage of it when it would have a benefit will be a big help to many same-sex couples.

The extension of the right to file jointly for bankruptcy was expected as a logical extension of the federal enforcement decision on the tax issue. The truth is that married couples and families all face the same financial struggles, no matter who they are or where they live. As a result, it makes sense to give everyone an equal playing field on which to deal with those financial struggles and find solutions to long term problems.

Although gay marriage is not legal here in Michigan, same-sex couples living here may still file jointly if they are married in another state, because bankruptcy code is a federal law.

Source: CNN, “U.S. expands legal benefits, services for same-sex marriages,” Evan Perez, Feb. 10, 2014. 

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