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Does bankruptcy affect child support obligations?

Even loving parents who want the best for their children face hard financial times that make it very difficult or impossible for them to meet all their obligations. This not only throws the needs of the child into crisis, but may produce crisis in every area of a struggling parent's finances.

Bankruptcy is often an excellent solution for individuals who need debt relief, but it is always important to understand how bankruptcy affects different types of debt before filing under one chapter or another. If you hope to reduce your owed child support through bankruptcy, or if your child's other parent attempts to do the same, you may have a very unpleasant surprise in the near future.

Child support obligations do not go away simply because a parent files for bankruptcy. In fact, if a parent avoids his or her child support duties, the court may take a number of actions to compel that parent to pay what he or she owes. For your own sake and for the sake of your child, be sure you understand bankruptcy in detail or you may attempt to use it unwisely and cause yourself even greater complications.

Bankruptcy does not wipe out child support

As a general rule, bankruptcies do not do away with child support. If you owe back child support, you may complete a bankruptcy entirely and still owe child support. However, that does not mean bankruptcy is useless when you find yourself struggling to pay your support obligations.

A parent who owes child support generally continues to owe child support until he or she pays it, or until the child reaches the age of adulthood. Filing for bankruptcy does not undo this obligation, but may make room in your budget to pay the support that you owe. If you suspect that this may help your circumstances, don't wait to research bankruptcy and consider how it may offer the the relief that you need.

What if my child's other parent claims that bankruptcy wiped out his or her obligation?

If your child's other parent files for bankruptcy and subsequently claims that he or she no longer owes unpaid support, it is likely that this person is either woefully misinformed or simply lying to you.

If you face the difficult task of compelling a parent to pay support, it is always wise to petition the court to help you. A court may use a variety of methods to compel a nonpaying parent, including wage garnishment and withholding licenses and professional certifications.

Whatever shape your financial troubles take, addressing them through the proper channels is generally the wisest course of action. If you believe that bankruptcy may help your circumstances, act now to make sure you understand your options in detail and have the resources you need to protect yourself and your rights and care for the child you love.

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Peter R. Scribner, Esq | 1110 Park Avenue | Rochester, New York 14610
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