Same Sex Married Couples / Joint Bankruptcy Petitions

Big announcement out of the Department of Justice today…

The Justice Department on Monday will instruct all of its employees across the country, for the first time, to give lawful same-sex marriages sweeping equal protection under the law in every program it administers, from courthouse proceedings to prison visits to the compensation of surviving spouses of public safety officers.In a new policy memo, the department will spell out the rights of same-sex couples, including the right to decline to give testimony that might incriminate their spouses, even if their marriages are not recognized in the state where the couple lives.
[ . . . ]
In bankruptcy cases, same-sex married couples will be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly. Domestic support obligations will include debts, such as alimony, owed to a former same-sex spouse. Certain debts to same-sex spouses or former spouses should be excepted from discharge.
Source: Washington Post

This is one of the predicted results of the U.S. v. Windsor case from last summer, and provides a little further clarification on some unanswered questions raised by that decision.  While the DOJ instructions are not akin to law, it is safe to assume that judges won’t dismiss same-sex cases – particularly in states such as Wisconsin that still prohibit same-sex marriage (or, that such a judge would be over-ruled on appeal).
In the months since Windsor was issued, there have been no bankruptcy cases in Wisconsin that have answered whether a couple legally married in one state (such as Colorado) could move to Wisconsin (where same sex marriage is not recognized) and file a joint petition.  In fact, there appear to be no bankruptcy cases addressing that question at all.  Only one bankruptcy case presently cites Windsor, and the case is not on point.
The caveat remains that a same-sex couple must be legally married in another state before moving to Wisconsin, and that these protections are still limited to areas of federal jurisdiction.
But at least now legally-wed same-sex couples can feel confident in filing a joint bankruptcy petition in Wisconsin (and other states like it).

Hoping to avoid bankruptcy? We can help with that, too!

At Holbus Law Office, we pride ourselves on guiding people down the road toward financial recovery via Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.  However, we also want to help guide people toward financial recovery without bankruptcy when possible.
That’s where our new budget counseling services come in.  For one low fee, you get a one hour counseling session plus three free follow-up sessions to help keep you on track.  The initial session includes a personalized review of your household budget, personalized recommendations to lessen your expenses, plus general advice on savings, credit scores, finance terms, and marketing gimmicks.
If bankruptcy ends up being unavoidable for you – your fee may be credited toward your bankruptcy costs, so you won’t have to pay for both services.
Call us today to find out how we can help get you on track toward a fresh start.  And remember – you don’t have to take time off of work to meet with us with our regular late evening hours.

Bitter cold wind chills and expensive heating bills.

Though the twenty-below temperatures and fifty-below wind chills that have plagued northeastern Wisconsin over the past several weeks seem to be over (knock on wood), cold temperatures will persist for some time (as one would expect they would, since it is only the beginning of February).
So, today is as good a day as any to remind you that if you’re falling behind on your utility bills and can’t afford to catch back up before the winter moratorium ends, you should consider consulting with a bankruptcy attorney now.  Come April 15th, the power companies can shut you off if you’re delinquent, but bankruptcy can prevent utility disconnects.
April 15th is still 2-1/2 months away, but remember that it takes time to prepare a proper case, so don’t wait until the last minute to do something.  Also keep in mind that Chapter 128 is no longer a viable method for preventing a disconnection.
For what it’s worth, Punxsutawney Phil is indicating six more weeks of winter.  Though, if you ask me, six weeks of winter is an early spring in this state, to say nothing of the questionable wisdom of using marmot-modeled forecasts.