Discharge of Support Claims in Bankruptcy

When one of the spouses owes an obligation to a child, a spouse, or a former spouse for support in bankruptcy, he or she can file bankruptcy, but the obligation for support will remain.

Marlene was distraught when she met me coming out of a conference with the judge in her child support case. She and Dad had agreed on guideline child support and payment of back child support, and we had just prepared an order for the judge to sign. While the attorneys and the judge were meeting, Dad told her he planned to file bankruptcy “so you probably won’t get a penny of this after all.” Fortunately for Marlene, Dad was wrong. According to Section 523(a)(5) of the bankruptcy code, he can file bankruptcy, and he can go through the process of discharging his debts. It’s just that when he finishes, he’ll still owe the child support.

And that’s not the only advantage Marlene enjoys. Congress has seen to it that children’s claims for child support enjoy several advantages in bankruptcy — advantages that make it increasingly difficult for Dad or any noncustodial parent to hide behind bankruptcy as a way to keep from paying child support. Here’s a list of the advantages Marlene and her child enjoy in bankruptcy.

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