Basically, custody of the children is shared 50/50 (it was more like 60/40 to me until last week when she wanted to change the arrangement). There are no assets or huge pensions, our income is very similar, and there''s no way either of us could (or should) pay maintenance to the other.
Bit of history... we were married in 2004, however I was forced into personal bankruptcy in 2007 when my wife suddenly (to me) decided to leave me and the kids and rented a room for herself, taking all of the family income with her (at the time, I was a stay at home dad), including child benefit and tax credits. We moved back in together not long after to try again, only for her to do a very similar thing in 2010 - move out and take all of the family income with her.
Anyway, obviously my 2007 bankruptcy meant that my wife became liable for any of the debt that was joint, and those creditors were legally barred from pursuing me for it. She always said she would go bankrupt to clear the debt, but she never did, as she just prefers to ignore challenging financial situations rather than deal with it. Story of her life, as her parents and sisters have told me.
My problem is that when it comes to divorce, I assume she will list this debt as ''matrimonial debt''. But given that I''ve already been made bankrupt for it, where does that leave me? Will I be forced to find money from somewhere to pay her? Will I need to go bankrupt again for exactly the same debt that I went bankrupt for in 2007?
This is really starting to give me sleepless nights - and I can imagine it''s going to drag on for months.
This is an interesting one. As you already realise you cannot be chased by the original debtors under the terms of your bankruptcy. However, the debts that went to your wife are marital and she would be poorly advised to not include them as marital in her disclosure. You would not be able to go bankrupt again to avoid the issue. If your ex wife decides to soldier on and try to pay the debts then expect to see an award of sm against you for a share matching her contribution. So if she reaches an agreement with the debtors to pay £50 per week then I would expect a judge to order you to pay her £25 per week until debts are repaid or she goes bankrupt. Judge can''t order her to go bankrupt.
Another spanner in the works is that she''s actually hidden from/ignored the bulk of these debts for the last 6 years and she said earlier this year that she expects the bulk of them to be statute barred later this year.
So, in order to accurately disclose them, I assume she''ll need to present up to date statements for these debts, for which she''ll need to ask the creditors, and which she probably won''t want to do because she''ll reset the statute bar time limit.
Also, if a judge does award ''spousal maintenance'' to her on this basis, then how can I know she''s using the money to pay off these debts, instead of continuing to hide from them... and simply taking the money and running, so to speak?
If she has hidden/ignored them how do either of you know whether or not they have sought and received a ccj against her. As you know ccj''s are not time limited.
Are you planning to challenge her disclosure of debts?
You don''t know if she is paying the debts or not. She has the burden of the debts and just as you are discharged from the obligation to pay you are ultra virus to the management of the debts. You gave up that control when you went bankrupt.
That might seem unfair. But I am sure you can work out when the time bars trigger and can argue a case then that the debt no longer exists so nor should the sm.
Truth is, I really don''t know the current status/balance of this debt at all as I was told not to contact the original creditors from the date of bankruptcy back in 2007, and I''ve had no need to do so. I''m not sure they''d release any information to me anyway, as per confidentiality laws. Plus, I don''t actually know which collection agencies currently own any of this debt, either.
She''s also not asked me for any help to manage/pay them since then, possibly because she always insisted she was going to go bankrupt, and possibly because she''s hiding from them.
But yes, these are just my assumptions. For all I know, she could have paid the bloody lot off and is just trying it on with me?!
All I do know is that she keeps playing this "I''ve been landed with all this debt" card whenever I''ve brought up the subject of divorce since we split 3.5 years ago - only she never ever does anything about it. I''ll only challenge her if she actually does disclose it, as I would like some real evidence that these debts do actually still exist in whatever form they do.
I appreciate these were also my debts, but part of my argument is that I have already suffered the consequences of them and ''done the time'' so to speak, responsibly, albeit unfortunately, via bankruptcy - while I am very much under the impression that she has done nothing but hide from/ignore them. And I''m still suffering the uncertainty of it all - 6 years later! So, yep, I guess there is an element of ''unfairness'' here.
All I really want is to draw a line under it all as this uncertainty is now making it very difficult for me to move on in other areas of my life.
I concede that there is a possibility that I might need to make some form of payment, but I would need to a) see evidence that the debts still exist, and that b) I would need to see ongoing evidence that my payments are actually reducing the debt - and that she''s also reducing it by an equal amount.
Otherwise I could end up in an endless Catch 22 where I''m sending her money and she''s not using it to clear the debt. And because the debts still exist, I still need to keep sending her money.
I wonder what kind of order could cover this, and whether we can negotiate without it going to court (which neither of us can really afford)?
Does that make sense? Am I being reasonable?
(You''re being really helpful and objective, by the way - thanks for this, it''s very useful in helping me channel my thinking. I''ve been all over the place until now!)
Ok, after a little more digging and a chat with various people including a family barrister, an insolvency practitioner and the actual insolvency service, it looks like the law is probably on my side as I understand it.
The Insolvency Act 1986 actually prevents me from providing this particular creditor with a financial remedy (directly or indirectly) without either a) having the bankruptcy annulled, or b) me committing an offence by making preferential payments to one creditor and not the others that were included in the bankruptcy.
In other words, the ONLY person with an interest in my post-bankruptcy, post-discharge estate as far as this debt is concerned is the Official Receiver. If I was to give anybody money to pay this debt, then the ONLY person I can give it to is the Official Receiver who would then distribute it amongst ALL of my pre-bankruptcy creditors.
It would be be a very, very brave family judge who ordered me to contribute to the repayments of this debt as they''d effectively be overturning my bankruptcy - and only the insolvency court is realistically able to do that, but only as long as they have a good enough reason to do so.