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How Does the Supreme Court Ruling on DOMA Affect Same Sex Couples and Bankruptcy?

Same sex marriage is gaining legal recognition across the country. These changes have a significant impact on federal legal matters, including bankruptcies and other financial issues. Since the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the summer of 2013, the Justice Department and therefore, the federal government now to recognize all legal same sex marriages. This includes the remaining states in which same sex marriage is not recognized, but in which the federal government has jurisdiction.

For instance, if a couple living in Florida travels out of state to get married in a state where same sex marriage is legal, the federal government will recognize that marriage, despite the couple’s home state not doing so.

What Does this Mean for Bankruptcy Law?

In the example given above, the couple traveling out of state to be married can now file jointly under federal bankruptcy laws, even though their home state does not recognize them as legally married. No longer can the federal government challenge a joint bankruptcy because of a state’s laws. The couple is entitled to all of the benefits federal bankruptcy laws provide.

Many couples benefit from filing for joint bankruptcy that would not be the case when filing individually. Filing jointly means your combined property and debts are all part of the bankruptcy. Whether or not this is beneficial for a couple to file jointly depends on what type of debt they are trying to eliminate, what, if any, property they own, whether or not either spouse would need to file separately, and the status of each spouse’s credit report. Keep in mind this only applies to same sex couples who are legally married.

Whether or not joint filing will be beneficial varies from couple to couple. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help spouses of all genders determine whether or not it would be more beneficial to file jointly or separately.

Opponents of the change have expressed concern the new guidelines undermine state laws. The changes have a significant impact on the way in which people can interact with the federal government and in addition to bankruptcy filing, will also affect survivor benefits, living wills, courtroom testimony, and countless other issues related to federal government and private citizens.

If you are struggling with finances and considering bankruptcy, contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Geller at 813-254-5696. We’ll help you sort through your financial issues and determine how changes in federal law affect your specific situation.

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