Filing bankruptcy is a legal means for debtors to potentially eliminate unsecured debts they cannot repay and make a fresh financial start. There are debts, however, that the government considers so important they are not legally discharged while filing bankruptcy. Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “Will my child support be discharged in my bankruptcy?”
Child Support and Chapter 7 bankruptcy
If you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy a bankruptcy trustee will be assigned to your bankruptcy case. They will inventory your assets and potentially liquidate your non-exempt assets to repay your debts in priority order as determined by bankruptcy laws.
Certain types of unsecured debts which cannot be repaid may be discharged, but debts such as child support are considered nondischargeable, which means that even after the Chapter 7 bankruptcy is completed, the child support payments will remain and you will be required to continue to make child support payments.
Why are child support payments not discharged? Child support is critical to the care and maintenance of your children. The government does not want to create any type of incentive to allow parents to eliminate their obligation to make these payments.
Child Support and Chapter 13 bankruptcy
What if you file Chapter 13 bankruptcy? Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not immediately discharge debts but allows a debtor to restructure debt payments within a 3 or 5 year debt repayment plan.
If you have back child support payments and you file Chapter 13 bankruptcy the payments will not be discharged, but you may be able to reschedule the debt payments over the debt repayment period. Talk to your bankruptcy lawyer about your options.
What can I do if I cannot discharge my child support payments?
Most parents want to pay child support, but there are circumstances, such as a disabling health condition or job loss, which make it impossible to meet their child support obligations. As mentioned above, filing bankruptcy will do little to help you if your goal is to have child support discharged.
Your best option is to contact the Child Support Enforcement Office in the state where the child support order was issued and find out your options. In many cases if your financial situation has substantially changed for the worse you can modify your child support order by filing a formal motion requesting a modification.
The first step is to submit a written request to modify the child support order. The state will review the request, which can take up to 30 days or more. Generally, the process is not too difficult if the other parent accepts the modification. If the modification is rejected you may have to attend a hearing.
Consider, there are common reasons a modification may be approved, including a decrease in the supporter’s income, remarriage of a spouse, cost of living increases, or if the supporter becomes disabled and can no longer work.
Should I file bankruptcy?
Although child support cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, there are some debtors who can still benefit from bankruptcy simply because it may discharge some of their other debts, freeing them up to make timely child support payments.
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