Kentucky Bankruptcy Law

Counsel with Care

Another intersection of divorce law and bankruptcy: Bifurcation

Bifurcation sounds like a painful surgical procedure, but it merely means splitting a joint bankruptcy into two separate ones. Marriage takes tremendous effort (I should know – I have been married to the same woman for 23 plus years) and when a couple is also stretched and stressed by financial tribulations, the marital relationship can take hit after hit. Often, bankruptcy can provide the relief needed on the financial front that allows the husband and wife to redirect their emotional resources to restoring the marriage.

I have encountered a few couples, though, where the relief of bankruptcy was insufficient for them to turn back towards each other. I am sad for these times when one or both decide that they have gone too far and divorce must happen. When this happens after a joint Chapter 7 has been filed, then there is no impact on the bankruptcy. However, in a Chapter 13 the couple will probably opt to split the case. At the point of divorce, the parties financial interest and desire for maximum separation makes the case split, or bifurcation, necessary. After all, who wants to keep pooling resources with an ex-spouse.

The process to bifurcate is simple enough. An entirely new filing fee is assessed by the court for the new case. A motion to split the cases must be filed and served on all creditors and the trustee in the case. Typically, the motion provides for a 14 day notice and opportunity to object to the case split, but each district is likely to have variations on this. After that period has run and the fee paid, then clerks create two identical cases.

Once the split occurs, though, each party must file new Schedules I & J showing their individual budgets. They also must create separate payment plans, modifying the confirmed plan or amending a pending plan. If there is real estate, at least one party is likely surrendering the house in their plan. If either party could have filed a Chapter 7 to begin with  or their new income would qualify them for a Chapter 7, then that party may opt to convert to a Chapter 7.

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June 24, 2013 - Posted by | Bankruptcy, Chapter 13, Chapter 7, Conversion, Disposable Income, Divorce, Plan, Plan payments, Planning | , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Hello. I am in Minnesota and will likely have to split my joint Chapter 13 into two separate case. I filed the Chapter 13 jointly with my then-wife. We are now divorced. Minnesota bankruptcy court has an option for a joint debtor to file a motion to “sever” from a case. After they sever, they can then convert to a Chapter 7. I do not see an option to file a motion to bifurcate. Is a motion to sever the same as a motion to bifurcate?

    Comment by Robert | November 10, 2014 | Reply


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