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Bankruptcy During Divorce

Problems may result from the conflict of interests between domestic relations courts and bankruptcy courts when a couple files for bankruptcy during a divorce. The conflict arises because of the differing policies between the courts. Bankruptcy courts have a policy of providing a fresh start and distributing the debtors’ assets equally among all of their creditors. Family courts have a policy of equitably dividing the property between the spouses.

Conversion and Dismissal of a Chapter 12 Case

Chapter 12 specifically provides that a debtor may voluntarily convert a Chapter 12 bankruptcy case to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or dismiss the case at any time. Creditors, however, may not seek the involuntary conversion of a debtor’s Chapter 12 bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy unless fraud is shown in connection with the case.

Estate Property

The commencement of a voluntary, joint, or involuntary bankruptcy petition automatically creates an “estate.” The estate is comprised of all the property that is described in section 541 of the Bankruptcy Code. It includes all legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property, wherever located, as of the commencement of the case. To determine a debtor’s rights in property, a court examines state law.

Nondischargeable Debts

Dischargeable debts are those debts that can be discharged through bankruptcy proceedings. Certain debts cannot be discharged through a bankruptcy proceeding. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, nondischargeable debts cannot be discharged at all, and in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, these debts remain even after the repayment plan is completed.

Voidable Transfers

The trustee in bankruptcy is a lien creditor and a successor to certain creditors and purchasers. As of the commencement of a bankruptcy case, the trustee or the debtor in possession has the rights and powers of the debtor and may avoid any transfer of property of the debtor or any obligation incurred by the debtor that is voidable by certain creditors and bona fide purchasers. This is known as “avoiding” powers. Such powers may be used to undo a transfer of money or property made during a certain period of time prior to the filing of the bankruptcy petition.

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