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Girlfriend Filing Chapter 7, Attorney Wants My Income Information

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  • Girlfriend Filing Chapter 7, Attorney Wants My Income Information

    It’s easier if I sum things up in a few bullet points:

    - we live together
    - the house is in her (and her parents) name
    - we’re in PA, so no common law marriage
    - her income is well below the median
    - my income is well above the median for a two person household in PA
    - we each file separate taxes, she claims head of household
    - no joint anything
    - she pays her car payment, credit cards, partial groceries, and half of the mortgage / I pay for everything else, up to and including her half of the mortgage (occasional)
    - financially, we’re closer to a roommate agreement
    - she wants to file for chapter 7, and keep her car lease agreement and the house (she has far less equity in the house that the homestead exemption allows)

    She saw an attorney today, and he told her he was pretty sure she could file for a chapter 7, but had doubts that we’re under the means household income. She only gave him a rough estimate of my hourly income, which doesn’t take into account that 1/3 of my gross income is from mandatory overtime. He wants my check stubs.

    Basically, I make $80,000+ per year, she makes about $30,000. The median two person household income in PA is around $62,000, so we’re above that.

    What I don’t understand is, why is my income even considered if she’s the one filing for bankruptcy? Her debts are her debts, as mine are my own. And how would my income affect her ability to file for chapter 7, when I’m not legally responsible for her finances?

  • #2
    Hopefully others can chime in but I read a similar story awhile back. I thought it was pretty crazy so even though it didn't pertain to me I followed the thread. It turns out yes it can have an effect. Which is one of the dumbest things I have come across. Although the BK process has a lot of odd and "quirky" guidelines.

    It falls simply under household income "head on beds" approach. Which I don't think is the same everywhere, but if someone with an income lives with you they are expected to contribute in the eyes of the court. For instance my 21 year old daughter was a full time student but had a part time job. That was put into question but luckily it was also easy to omit. As they simply asked if she contributed, which was an honest no.

    But in this situation with a very substantial amount of income I can imagine things start to get muddy. Your attorney should know the best way to how to handle this of course. But no one posts here wanting that as a catch all answer (even if true). And well to be honest some attorney's are willing to "bend" a bit more than others. The person in the story was able for instance to say their GF was a roommate. And they contributed an X amount (which wasn't much). This kind of goes against the "heads on beds" situation but it somehow worked. I am not telling you to try that though as lying is illegal.

    So ya I think it's simply household income vs contribution expectations. But I am not sure what area this was in regards to so maybe it varies. I hope someone else might be able to help more, but I saw you didn't get a response and wanted to share.


    • #3
      First of all, thanks for the response.

      Secondly, you’re basically saying it’s a loose legal definition? Because I can’t claim her as a dependent when I do my taxes, even though I’m essentially supporting her. But she could end up in a Chapter 13, with payments she can’t afford, based on my income, which means I’ll end up having to pay for that too. Frustrating.

      I talked to her last night, and she said his exact words were “you fail the means test”, but he’s pretty sure she can still file Chapter 7. And he told her the fact that I pay almost all of her bills doesn’t help her case (obviously).

      I actually filed myself 6 years ago, using the same attorney. It was a two year process between the time that I stopped paying my creditors, and when I actually filed, and my circumstances changed dramatically right before that, and I went from a clear chapter 7, to a Chapter 13 with monthly payments of $660 per month for five years (based on my hourly income without overtime), then back down to Chapter 7 (still had a disposable income, but on paper it wasn’t enough to force me into a 13) based on my outgoing expenses, due entirely on how much I paid out supporting her lack of an income. I don’t believe he counted her income with mine at that point, but he did want to know how much she made.

      I guess I’ll see what happens after I pay his retainer.


      • #4
        I don't see how your income would/should be included in your GF's Means Test. There is an item on the Means Test described as "All amounts from any source which are regularly paid for household expenses of you .... Include regular contributions from an unmarried partner", but that would probably be much less than your full income.


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