Unfortunately, there is no simple equation that will reveal whether it’s better to file alone or jointly. The determination will largely hinge on which option allows you to get rid of more debt and keep more of your stuff. Here are some of the factors you should consider:
Washington is a community property state and if most of your debts were incurred there, and your was property acquired there, during marriage, you should probably file jointly. Even if only one spouse files, all community debts are listed and most will be dealt with in the plan even though only one spouse files. The same holds true for property, however, Washington’s exemptions are so generous that this rarely is an issue.
If you have recently married and one of you has all the debts, it may make sense for that spouse to file for bankruptcy alone. However, if you have significant assets, filing jointly may be the better bet since it doubles the amounts of your exemptions that you can use to protect that property.
The nightmare scenario to be avoided is for you to make payments for years and completing your Chapter 13 Plan, paying off a relatively high percentage of your debts to your unsecured creditors, only to have your non-filing spouse sued for a debt that took place during the marriage. Fortunately, we live in a world in which separate rather than community property is the default so the odds of this happening are pretty low. But why risk it?