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Liability for joint debts if your partner is bankrupt

This advice applies to Wales

If your partner is declared bankrupt, you need to know what will happen to any joint debts you have with them. You may also find that your home and belongings of value are affected.

This page explains what will happen to any joint debts you have with a partner who's declared bankrupt, as well as the rules on what happens to your belongings of value.

What happens to joint debts if your partner is bankrupt

If your partner is made bankrupt, they'll no longer be liable for any debts that you have jointly with them. However, you will still be liable for the full amounts.

Your creditors could pursue you for payment of the full amount of any joint debts you have with your bankrupt partner. This is because when you take out a joint credit agreement, you both agree to be responsible for the full amount of the debt. This is called joint and several liability.

In practice, this will only usually happen if you're working.

Joint debts taken out without your knowledge

If your partner took out joint debts without your knowledge, you may be able to dispute your liability for these. However, you'll need to be able to show that you didn't sign the credit agreement.

  • More about checking liability for and challenging joint debts

If you're struggling with the debts

If your partner's bankruptcy has left you struggling to pay joint debts, you may need to look at choosing a debt solution to help you out of the situation.

Top tip

Your partner isn't allowed to give you items of value or sell them to you at less than their value in order to avoid them being taken away as part of the bankruptcy estate.

If the official receiver or bankruptcy trustee finds this has happened, your partner could be given a bankruptcy restrictions order. This would extend the period of time during which they have to follow certain rules restricting them for anything up to 15 years. It could also lead to them being fined and/or sent to prison.

Bankruptcy restrictions orders

Your belongings

If your partner is declared bankrupt, you'll generally be able to keep your own belongings, called assets. These include things like:

  • your wages or salary from your job
  • your own savings
  • goods that are owned entirely by you
  • any property that you own by yourself.

However, some restrictions may apply:

Your home

If you own your home jointly with a partner who's been declared bankrupt, you may face losing it. However, you may have options for getting this delayed or even stopped altogether.

You could also lose your home if your partner has a beneficial interest in it, or if you have a beneficial interest in your partner's home. If you live together in a home you own, it's a good idea to let the trustee know and get advice about who has a beneficial interest in your home.

Jointly owned goods

If you own goods jointly with your bankrupt partner, the bankruptcy trustee can ask you to buy your partner's share. This has to be at their true value. If it's not possible for you to do this, the trustee may get a court order to sell the property.

Gifts from your partner

The bankruptcy trustee will look at any gifts your bankrupt partner has given you or things you have bought from them. You may have to give these back. The trustee is allowed to go back up to 5 years, if the gifts were given in order to put them out of reach of creditors.

Next steps

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