How Does Bankruptcy Affect A Missouri Divorce Case?

Going through a divorce is never an easy decision, but it is a situation many couples find themselves facing. Whether it is due to irreconcilable differences or infidelity, divorce proceedings can be complex and emotionally charged. However, when one spouse declares bankruptcy, it adds another layer of complexity to the divorce process. Bankruptcy can have a significant impact on the division of property and debts and can potentially prolong the duration of the divorce proceedings. In this article, we will explore in more detail how bankruptcy affects divorce cases in the state of Missouri.

Bankruptcy and Property Division

In Missouri, during divorce proceedings, the division of marital property is done equitably. It is important to note that Missouri is not a community property state, which means that assets are not automatically split equally (50/50) between the spouses. Instead, the court takes several factors into consideration, such as the financial contributions of each spouse and their earning potential.

When a spouse files for bankruptcy during divorce proceedings, it complicates the division of property. The bankruptcy trustee has the authority to sell any non-exempt property in order to pay off outstanding debts, including marital property. Consequently, the bankruptcy court may potentially seize assets that are subject to property division as outlined in the divorce settlement.

However, if the couple filed for bankruptcy jointly, the automatic stay that comes with it can protect their property from being seized until the case is resolved. In such instances, the couple may need to reach an agreement outside of the bankruptcy court regarding the distribution of property and debts.

Debt Division

Bankruptcy proceedings can also have an impact on how debts are divided. When a spouse files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, eligible debts are discharged, meaning they are no longer required to be repaid. This discharge occurs alongside the liquidation of assets, which aims to pay off as much debt as possible. Consequently, the spouse who filed for bankruptcy may be relieved of responsibility for a portion of the debt.

In cases where the couple filed for bankruptcy jointly, the debts are likely to be discharged, and creditors will seek payment from any non-exempt property. However, if only one spouse filed for bankruptcy, the other spouse may still be held responsible for any outstanding joint debts. In such scenarios, the court may need to adjust the debt allocation in the divorce settlement accordingly.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 bankruptcy differs from Chapter 7 in several ways. Instead of liquidating assets to repay debts, the debtor creates a payment plan in collaboration with creditors. This plan aims to pay off the debts over a period of time, typically ranging from three to five years.

During a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, creditors are legally prohibited from engaging in collection attempts. However, it is important to note that the debts are not discharged until the payment plan is successfully completed. Consequently, the couple may need to delay finalizing the divorce until the bankruptcy case is fully resolved. Generally, the court will not approve a divorce settlement until the Chapter 13 bankruptcy case reaches its conclusion.


Filing for bankruptcy during a divorce can significantly complicate the legal proceedings. Bankruptcy has the potential to impact the division of property and debts, which can, in turn, prolong the duration of the divorce process. It is imperative for couples to seek guidance from an experienced attorney who can effectively navigate this complex situation. Each case is unique, and the laws regarding family law and bankruptcy can vary by state. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable expert specializing in Missouri family law and bankruptcy law to ensure the best possible outcome for all parties involved.

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