What Happens to Child Support During a Bankruptcy?

Perhaps you faced a medical emergency, and now you’re facing mountains of bills with no way to pay them. Perhaps you lost your job right after you ran up your credit card bills. Whatever got you into relentless debt, the idea of bankruptcy can be very appealing, especially if you’re getting calls from debt collectors. One of the biggest benefits provided by a bankruptcy filing is the automatic stay that gets issued, and which immediately stops creditors from pursuing their collection efforts.

As much of a relief as the automatic stay might seem, you need to understand that there are some debts that it will not apply to. These include your child support obligations. The amount of support that you’ve either been ordered to pay or have agreed to are considered priority debts and cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy. You will be required to continue making payments and to pay back all child support that you owe. In Chapter 7 bankruptcies that involve liquidating property, any monies realized from selling assets will first be used to pay off your debts before any payments are made to other creditors, and if there are insufficient funds to pay off your child support debt, they will remain an obligation until they are fully paid off.

If your bankruptcy filing involves a Chapter 13 repayment plan, any missed payments will be incorporated into your repayment plan, and though other debts may be reduced as part of that plan, back child support cannot be and must be paid in full within the prescribed five-year period.

Though it is unlikely that anybody would file for bankruptcy in the hopes that it would allow them to renegotiate their child support payment, or clear them of that obligation in the same way that their credit card and other debts will be wiped out, it is important to note that child support debts will not be discharged. In fact, as you are going through bankruptcy proceedings you will be expected to continue making your scheduled child support payments, and you will not be able to be discharged from a Chapter 13 bankruptcy until you can prove that you are up-to-date on all child support payments.

For those who have both child support obligations and overwhelming debt, it is wise to seek guidance from an experienced bankruptcy attorney. For assistance, contact our office to set up a time for us to talk.