Over the last few years, we’ve seen major legal changes involving same-sex couples. Our own state of Ohio does not recognize same-sex couples as legally married. However, that does not mean that same-sex couples cannot file for bankruptcy jointly. This past February, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the recognition of same-sex couples in federal legal matters, including bankruptcy. Why does this include residents of Ohio?
Bankruptcy is a Federal Matter
Bankruptcy cases must be filed in federal court. There are 94 federal judicial districts in the U.S. that handle bankruptcy matters. Federal bankruptcy laws have been around since 1800. While going through many transformations, the first modern Bankruptcy Act was accepted in 1898. The law as we know it today was adopted as the Bankruptcy Reform Act in 1978.
Affect on Same-Sex Marriage
The bankruptcy process often begins with an individual, or husband and wife, filing a petition with the federal bankruptcy court. As this process begins, the filer’s assets, income, liabilities and a list of debts and creditors is submitted. Obviously, if a same-sex couple is now permitted to file jointly these documents would be drastically different. More importantly, the outcome of their court proceedings will be drastically different. The federal expansion affects even the 34 states that have not legalized same-sex marriage, including Ohio. For example, if a same-sex couple married in Massachusetts, where it is legal for them to do so, then moved to Ohio and needed to file for bankruptcy, the court would legally recognize their marriage in the context of the bankruptcy proceedings.
This landmark announcement has the ability to negate Ohio law, at least when it comes to bankruptcy rulings. This decision is unique because Ohio even has a law banning the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages. That ban was overturned by a judge just last month, but the appeals process is still underway. Either way it turns out, though, when it comes to bankruptcy, the federal law will stand. Other areas include prison visitation, survivor benefits for police officers and firefighters and the right of a spouse to refuse to testify against a spouse.
If you are thinking about filing for bankruptcy, trust a Troy, Ohio bankruptcy attorney that advocates for every individual client and works hard to stay current with our ever-evolving legal system. Contact us for a free consultation.