Clients to avoid: those with bankruptcy-adverse spouses

Do you scope out the world view of  your prospect’s non filing spouse?

I didn’t and I’m sorry.  The client was full of guilt about the financial situation and kept insisting at our first meeting that “no one should be hurt but him” as a result of the financial predicament leading to bankruptcy.  That situation included back taxes on a joint return.

Now the non filing wife is spitting mad because she thinks that she was “promised” that the bankruptcy case would have “absolutely no impact” on her.  And she’s concocted some reason that she thinks has/will/might adversely affect her.  The client of  course claims it (whatever it is) is all my fault.

Somehow the wife has lost track of the fact that the family owes a fistful of money, including at least two years of back taxes.  But, in her mind, none of the perceived trouble is the result of the debts, but is traceable to the bankruptcy.

Maybe I should have seen the client’s initial desire to take all the responsibility for the situation on himself as not guilt, but fear of the irrational spouse.

It’s hard to figure out how to manage the situation when I believe much of the wife’s fears are irrational and unfounded.  Some of the consequences here may be unavoidable.  But it’s uncomfortable being caught between the two spouses.

Add “reasonable expectations of the non filing spouse” to your checklist of essential client characteristics.


  1. I had a client tell me that he hadn’t told his wife about his upcoming bankruptcy, and that only after I told him I needed a waiver from her for him to use the California 703 exemptions. It turned out that there was (seemingly) no problem, but boy…

  2. Cathy Moran, Esq. says

    This better dead-than-bankrupt attitude seems to me so much the product of scare tactics by the creditors and collectors. And the fear of an effective solution to the debt problem is accentuated by the expectation that an applicant without a bankruptcy on their record is credit worthy, which I think in today’s world is another illusion.


  3. Michael2255 says

    I once had a client come in with her non-filing husband after the 341 and insist that she had not filed and that a certain person was impersonating her. Being shocked and amused, I told her that she had indeed filed and we went to the 341 meeting. She took it step further and said I was in cahoots with that person so I angrily told her to notify the UST, the panel Trustee, the police and get the hell out of my office.