The Impact of Bankruptcy on Child Support Payments

Florida parents who owe child support may face financial challenges that can affect their ability to continue making scheduled payments at times. Bankruptcy is often promoted as a means of finding financial relief from unmanageable debts, but it is important to remember that debts in the nature of support, including child support payments or amounts that are in arrears, are not discharged in bankruptcy. Parents on either side of the issue may be concerned about the implications of bankruptcy in relationship to child support obligations.

The parent who receives child support payments can rest assured that a former spouse's bankruptcy filing will not excuse that party from making payments. However, bankruptcy may reflect financial circumstances that have changed. If the bankruptcy has occurred because of a job loss or a significant reduction in wages, for example, the support-owing parent may move for a modification of the child support order. The court system may address the individual's financial situation in reviewing and potentially revising payments.

The parent who owes support cannot simply cease to make payments without expecting to deal with negative repercussions. Back support will not be eradicated through bankruptcy, meaning that arrears may continue to accrue if nonpayment continues. If bankruptcy is considered strictly because of child support balances that are owed, the strategy is inappropriate. However, Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 could be a helpful measure for wiping out unsecured debts that may be preventing a parent from complying with a support order.

In dealing with life changes that affect one's income, a parent may want to work quickly to bring a support order back to court for possible modification, which is the primary legal option for altering payment terms and amounts. Acting promptly may minimize the potential for back payments to build up to major amounts of money.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Support and Bankruptcy", accessed on Feb. 18, 2015

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