Child Support and Bankruptcy…

Unfortunately, many people ordered to pay child support have had to file for bankruptcy.  We see this occasionally, and while sometimes that person is attempting to avoid their child support obligation, many times the person truly is experiencing hard times.  Even more unfortunately, that person may believe bankruptcy will stay, halt or eliminate their child support obligation – that is simply not the case.  In fact, bankruptcy can make it easier for a person receiving child support to get paid.

To lay the argument out simply:

1) Child Support is seen as a domestic support obligation under the bankruptcy code – 11 U.S.C. 101(14A).

2) Domestic Support Obligations are not dischargeable through bankruptcy – 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(5).

3) In fact, the automatic stay associated with bankruptcy filings will not apply to collection of a domestic support obligation from property that is not part of the bankruptcy estate or with regard to a wage withholding order for future income- 11 U.S.C. 362(b)(2).

4) Finally, exempt property can be taken to satisfy domestic support obligations notwithstanding any State or Federal law to the contrary – 11 U.S.C. 522(c)(1).

What does this mean?

When a person (“debtor”) files for bankruptcy, they fill out certain schedules.  Those schedules include all of their property, their income and where that income comes from.  Because of (3) and (4), the person owed child support could look at those schedules, determine what the debtor is claiming is exempt, then file their Motion to Enforce Child Support.  Texas is allows for a debtor to claim quite a bit of property as exempt, but the debtor must list it in the schedule, which the person owed child support can then show the Judge and simply request that property or that income to satisfy the child support obligation.  While not a sure-fire way of getting that child support paid, looking through a debtor’s bankruptcy filing is a good start.

About CJ.Harding
Chris believes one of the most important aspects of family law is seeing the 'big picture.' This means understanding the law, the facts of your case and the range of possible outcomes. Only after knowing each of those can an attorney convey the risks and potential results and guide you to make the right decision for your case, your life and your family. He understands every person and every case is unique. Chris will advocate for the very best possible result in your case. He has worked on a variety of family law cases, including tracing of assets, property division of estates worth more than one million dollars, international and interstate child custody issues, enforcement actions as well as pre-marital and post-marital agreements. Chris continues to be a student of the Law and helps to educate others by maintaining the "Hot Topics" section of the Firm web site, which features current issues in Texas family law. Topics have included how a bankruptcy can affect child support and the differences between alimony and court ordered spousal maintenance. Chris joined the firm after graduating cum laude from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. During his time at SMU, Chris competed in numerous mock and moot competitions and placed nationally. Chris is a native Texan, growing up in the Houston area and completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

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