The general answer is no. A married person can file a bankruptcy petition (either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13) as an individual and is not required to file a joint bankruptcy petition or include his/her spouse as a co-debtor.
However, all marital assets and income are required to be reported in your individual petition. California is a community property state which means that income from both spouses is considered part of the community, and is therefore required to be reported in your petition. Thus, you will be required to report not only your income and assets, but also those of your spouse, which are considered community property.
Further, by filing individually, you may not qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy if your income is considered too high Thus, when adding your income along with your spouse’s when filing individually, you may be not qualify for Chapter 7. Additionally, if you file for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, both spouses’ income will be used to determine the minimum payment used for the repayment plan.
Bankruptcy planning, especially determining whether filing with your spouse is appropriate, is difficult. Bankruptcy requires many hours of proper planning and case preparation, and therefore should not be done without the assistance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney. As a highly skilled bankruptcy attorney, I make it my goal to provide each client dedicated the time and experience to assist clients with their bankruptcy filing.