Can You File Bankruptcy on Child Support?

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on March 29, 2023

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Understanding Bankruptcy and Child Support

Bankruptcy is a legal procedure that provides individuals and businesses with the opportunity to discharge or repay their debts under the protection and supervision of the bankruptcy court.

On the other hand, child support is a court-ordered payment made by a non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the financial support of their child.

Child support debt is a court-ordered financial obligation and must be paid by non-custodial parents to support the financial needs of their child. However, life can be unpredictable, and individuals facing financial difficulties may struggle to keep up with their child support payments.

Can Child Support Debt Be Discharged in Bankruptcy?

The answer to whether or not child support debt can be discharged in bankruptcy is no. Child support debt is considered a priority debt, meaning it cannot be discharged through bankruptcy.

This means that individuals who file for bankruptcy will still be required to pay any outstanding child support debt they owe.

There are some exceptions to this rule, however. For example, if the individual owes back child support payments over three years old, those payments may be discharged through Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Additionally, if the individual can prove that paying their child support debt would cause undue hardship, they may be able to have some or all of their child support debt discharged through bankruptcy.

Consequences of Filing for Bankruptcy on Child Support Debt

While child support debt cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, filing for bankruptcy can still affect the individual's child support payments.

There are several benefits when an individual files for bankruptcy. One example is putting in place an automatic stay, which means that creditors are prohibited from attempting to collect any debts owed. This includes child support payments.

However, it is important to note that while the automatic stay is in place, child support payments will continue to accrue. This means that once the bankruptcy case is closed, the individual will still owe all child support payments accrued during the bankruptcy process.

Additionally, the automatic stay can be lifted if the custodial parent files a motion with the bankruptcy court asking for permission to continue collecting child support payments.

Options for Addressing Child Support Debt

Here are the options available for addressing child support debt.

Negotiating With the Custodial Parent

This could involve agreeing on a reduced payment amount or a better payment plan for both parties. It is important to remember that the court must approve any changes to the child support agreement.

Modification of Child Support Payments

This could involve requesting a reduction in the payment amount or changing the payment schedule. The individual must file a motion with the court and provide evidence that their financial situation has changed significantly since the original child support order was issued.

Seeking a Discharge of Other Debts to Free up Money for Child Support Payments

While child support debt cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, other types of debt, such as credit card debt or medical bills, can be discharged. By eliminating these debts, the individual may have more money to make child support payments.

However, it is important to note that seeking a discharge of other debts should only be done with careful consideration. Eliminating these debts may provide temporary relief but could also result in long-term financial consequences.

For example, discharging a credit card debt may improve an individual's short-term cash flow, but it could also negatively impact their credit score and make it more difficult to obtain credit in the future.

Options for Addressing Child Support Debt

Legal Assistance for Bankruptcy and Child Support

Given the complexity of the laws surrounding bankruptcy and child support, it is important to seek legal assistance when facing these issues.

Consulting with a bankruptcy lawyer can help individuals understand their options for addressing their debts and navigating bankruptcy.

Additionally, consulting with a family law attorney can help individuals understand their rights and obligations regarding child support payments.

Final Thoughts

While child support debt cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, options are available for addressing this type of debt.

Individuals struggling to make their child support payments may be able to negotiate with the custodial parent, seek a modification of the child support payments, or seek a discharge of other debts to free up money for their child support payments.

However, it is important to remember that seeking a discharge of other debts should only be done with careful consideration.

Finally, individuals facing bankruptcy and child support issues should seek legal assistance to ensure their rights and obligations are properly understood and protected.

Can You File Bankruptcy on Child Support? FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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