How Does Bankruptcy affect Child Support Payments?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Filing for bankruptcy protection does not allow you to discharge past due child support payment obligations. Any back payments owed for child support cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy proceeding. The automatic stay does not apply to child support collection efforts.

Domestic support obligations are top priority in a Chapter 7 asset case, where there are funds to pay creditors. The debtor should file a proof of claim to have most of his or her liquidated estate used to pay off the child support obligation.

In a Chapter 13 case, your back child support payments will be paid through your Chapter 13 plan, in addition to the regular payments due after the petition date. These support obligations must be current in order to have your Chapter 13 plan confirmed. Moreover, to obtain a discharge in a Chapter 13 case, the debtor will have to certify that all post-petition child support obligations have been met.

To put it another way, your bankruptcy case won’t change how much you owe, but it can make it easier for you to make your required payments because you won’t have as much other debt. 

To change the amount you are required to pay each month, you will have to file a petition to modify your support obligation with the court that originally ordered you to pay the child support.  Practically speaking, you will need an attorney’s help

If you are looking to enforce a support obligation, you should also seek the advice of an attorney to assist you in preserving your child’s support obligation through the bankruptcy court or family court. 

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