You can file a single bankruptcy petition and NOT include her income if you are really separated.
No, you don’t need legal separation papers drawn up. You don’t even need to have a divorce date set, but you need to be maintaining separate residences. If you decide to “separate” only to trick the system so that your household income is suddenly low enough to qualify for a chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’re committing fraud and perjuring yourself on the documents we file with the bankruptcy court. If I find out you’re doing it, I won’t represent you. If the trustee finds out that you’re doing it, you will be looking at (at a minimum) an adversary proceeding to revoke your discharge along with possible criminal sanctions.
That being said, if you’re separated, you’re separated. We do not need to provide documentation to the trustee that you’re officially separated. It is simply a box that we check on the forms.
This means that your bankruptcy will only include your debts, and not your spouse’s debts. You will not include her income in your income calculations for purposes of the bankruptcy means test. This also means that any creditors of joint debts will start coming after her even more.
if you thought your relationship with your estranged spouse was bad before, just wait until the creditors are only calling her because you’re protected in bankruptcy!