Your ex-spouse has been late making their alimony and child support payments in recent months. When you’ve finally received payments, they often haven’t been for the full amount. They tell you they’ve been having financial difficulties. However, it’s been challenging for you and your children, too, because you depend on this money
Now your ex tells you they’re planning to file for bankruptcy. That’s a frightening word. You know almost nothing about bankruptcy. What does it mean for your support? Will you lose it completely?
The good news is that when people file for personal bankruptcy, they won’t be able to shed their spousal and child support obligations that are part of a settlement agreement or court order. The bankruptcy code refers to these as “domestic support obligations” or DSOs.
If your ex files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which allows people to discharge debts to credit card companies, hospitals and other creditors, they can’t discharge a DSO. In fact, by being able to discharge some of their other obligations, they may be better able to keep up with their support payments.
If your ex files for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, they’ll be required to develop a three-to-five-year repayment plan and have it approved by the bankruptcy court. DSOs are considered priority debts in Chapter 13 bankruptcies. That means they must be paid ahead of unsecured debts, like those medical and credit card bills.
It’s possible that your ex may go back to family court to try to get their future alimony and/or child support payments reduced. However, they’ll have to convince the court that their financial situation has changed since the agreement or court order went in to place — and possibly that yours have as well.
It’s a good idea to talk with your attorney to determine what steps you need to take to help ensure that you and your children continue to get the support you need.