The Relationship Status of Divorce and Bankruptcy: It’s Complicated

The Relationship Status of Divorce and Bankruptcy: It’s Complicated

As with many things in life, timing can be everything. In family law, timing is especially important when it comes to getting divorced and filing for bankruptcy. It’s important to understand how each of these proceedings affects the other.

In Colorado, the District Courts have jurisdiction over dissolution matters while U.S. bankruptcy courts have jurisdiction over bankruptcy proceedings. Although the two courts sometimes have concurrent jurisdiction, in certain circumstances the U.S. Court supersedes the Colorado District Court.

So what does that mean for you? In short, it will be less of a headache to handle the two proceedings at separate times. You can either first complete the divorce and then handle the bankruptcy. Or, you can first complete the bankruptcy and then handle the divorce.

Why not handle them at the same time? Because having both proceedings occur simultaneously will likely delay your divorce for several months and even years – even if you and your spouse have agreed to all the separation terms and all you need is the Court to sign off on the final decree. Because bankruptcy proceedings deal with your assets, the Colorado District Court cannot issue a final divorce decree until it knows how the bankruptcy proceeding will adjudicate those assets. So until the bankruptcy proceeding has been completed, your divorce will be in limbo. And while the bankruptcy is taking months (or years), your divorce will sit and wait.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that regardless of the type of bankruptcy, domestic support obligations cannot be discharged.1 These obligations include child support and maintenance.2

Given the close relationship between divorce and bankruptcy, it’s best to complete one before the other. Which one to complete first depends on you and your situation. There can be benefits to completing the bankruptcy first depending on your finances. On the other hand, depending on the type of bankruptcy, it may be best to complete the divorce first.

To know which option is best for you, talk to both a bankruptcy attorney and a family law attorney about your options.

1. 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(5)

2. 11 U.S.C. 101(14A)


This website includes information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is an affordable family law, estate planning, and probate lawyer licensed in Colorado.