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Can Bankruptcy Help with Past-Due Child Support?


As we have explained many times, not all debts can be wiped out in bankruptcy. The bankruptcy code identifies certain debts that are “non-dischargeable,” and child support payments are one type. But does this mean bankruptcy is useless if you owe past-due child support, called “arrearages”?

No, actually. Bankruptcy does provide some tangible benefits that might be of interest. With the right bankruptcy, you can buy more time to catch up on your past-due child support. Contact a Plantation Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney to review your situation.

Chapter 7 Provides Only Limited Help

Chapter 7 is the faster of the two bankruptcies and the more popular option in Florida. However, it provides only limited help with paying off past-due child support.

The principal way a Chapter 7 will help is by eliminating other debts, which could free up money to pay your child support. For example, you might be paying $500 a month in credit card debt. If this is eliminated, you might have enough money to pay your child support and eventually catch up.

Chapter 13 Provides More Help for Catching Up with Child Support Arrearages

A Chapter 13 takes longer than a Chapter 7 and is more expensive. A debtor must stick to a payment plan that can last between three and five years. But this extra expense and lengthier timeframe might prove beneficial. Chapter 13 provides certain protections that are of great benefit if you owe past-due child support:

  • Chapter 13 will stop any collection such as garnishment by the other parent or the state’s child support enforcement agency. Garnishment cannot start back up so long as you are on the Chapter 13 payment plan.
  • You can spread out paying back your arrearages over the course of the plan. You won’t have to pay a lump sum. Instead, you’ll come up with a plan that allows you to pay off your child support and your other debts based on your monthly income and expenses.

Of course, to reap these benefits, you must continue to pay your monthly child support. You can’t stop. You also must stick to your payment plan. If you suddenly stop, then you will lose the protections it affords, and you could quickly find your wages garnished. Even worse, your ex could come after property that you own to get the child support arrearages paid.

Should You File for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Protection?

Filing for bankruptcy is an individualized decision. It isn’t right for everyone who owes past-due child support. To file for Chapter 13, you need regular income. If you have no job and few assets, then filing for bankruptcy protection might not make sense.

For help thinking through your situation, and help identifying your options, call Nowack & Olson, PLLC. Our Plantation Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyers have helped many consumers with their debts. We are well versed on the law as it relates to child support and can help you identify the path forward. Call us today at 888-813-4737 or send in your contact information.


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