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Bankruptcy Won't Clear Up Spousal or Child Support Arrearages

In today's economy, everyone's dealing financial pressure. Whether you are paying or receiving spousal and child support payments, you may be facing a lot of challenges these days. Either the payor or the payee could be out of a job or dealing with reduced hours and a reduction in pay. Either way, those alimony and child support payments are probably weighing heavily on your mind.

If you're behind on your alimony or child support -- or if your ex is -- you may be wondering whether bankruptcy will make those back-payments go away. It won't.

Alimony and child support payments are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. In fact, under bankruptcy law, spousal and child support payments have to be paid before any other creditor can take a piece of the debtor's assets -- even the tax man.

What Should I Do If My Ex Owes Child Support and Alimony And Is Filing for Bankruptcy?

Just because the law doesn't allow alimony or child support to be wiped out by bankruptcy does not mean you don't need to protect your interests. Just like any other creditor, you should make sure the bankruptcy court knows that you're pressing your claim by filing a "nondischargeability complaint" concerning any alimony or child support you are owed.

Both the bankruptcy trustee and the Georgia Child Support Enforcement program should notify you if your ex has filed for bankruptcy, so you should never be taken by surprise. Even if you do nothing, it is unlikely that the bankruptcy court would discharge the back-child support or alimony arrearages your ex owes you, but it's always a good idea to get good legal advice and protect yourself.

If your ex doesn't have enough money to pay off what he or she owes in alimony or child support, the bankruptcy court may set up a payment schedule. If you are involved in the proceedings, your lawyer can help negotiate that payment schedule so it's as favorable as possible to you.

I Can't Afford to Pay My Current Spousal and Child Support, Much Less Make Back Payments. What Do I Do?

It never helps to just hope for the best -- it's time to take action. If you can't pay your alimony or child support because you've lost your job or experienced a financial crisis, you should be able to file for a spousal or child support modification through the family court.

A modification of your alimony or child support order will only affect future payments, however. It will not wipe out any arrearages you owe. It might be possible to get hardship relief through the courts, but it's not easy, and you should definitely talk to an attorney. The most likely resolution is for you to set up a payment plan with the court, or through negotiation with your ex, that will help you catch up.

If you are able to make an agreement with your ex, be sure to have it approved by the court. Otherwise, the Georgia Child Support Enforcement program will continue to try to collect under your existing order.

Related Resource:

"Bankruptcy doesn't absolve spousal support payments" (To Her Credit blog,, May 7, 2010)

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