Can Child Support Be Discharged in Bankruptcy?

Many people who find themselves in financially difficult times look to bankruptcy as a way to alleviate their hardships. One item that many people wonder about when it comes to bankruptcy proceedings is whether a child support obligation or overdue child support payments can be discharged. Bankruptcy is good for discharging a number of debts, but there are a handful of financial obligations that the courts will not allow a person to discharge, and one of those non-dischargeable financial obligations is child support.

Domestic Support Obligations Cannot Be Discharged in Bankruptcy

Federal law governs bankruptcy proceedings, so it is federal law that determines what types of debts can be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings. Under 11 USC Section 101(14A), which is referred to as the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, domestic support obligations are not dischargeable. A “domestic support obligation” is any debt owed to a spouse, ex-spouse, child, or a government entity that accrued before, on, or after a bankruptcy proceeding. This makes financial obligations owed to an ex-spouse (i.e., alimony) or a child (i.e., child support) permanent and protected from bankruptcy.

Child Support Is Protected Bankruptcy

Laws are in place to ensure that parents support their children financially. Not only does the federal bankruptcy law specifically protect child support and other domestic support obligations from discharge, the South Carolina family court handles all matters related to child support. A South Carolina family court can:

  • Issue a court order, requiring one parent to pay child support to the other, that contains the calculated child support obligation according to the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines
  • Modify an existing child support obligation up or down if appropriate circumstances exist
  • Terminate a child support obligation if the appropriate circumstances exist and termination of the order is proper

However, the South Carolina Family Court cannot forgive or release a parent’s overdue child support obligations. So bankruptcy won’t discharge overdue child support, nor will the family court.

That is not to say that the recipient parent cannot forgive the overdue child support. A recipient parent has the authority to forgive any portion of the paying parent’s overdue child support obligation. While it is not a common occurrence, there are instances where, for example, a divorced couple is still on relatively good terms and the recipient spouse is willing to help out the paying parent when the paying parent hits hard financial times.

What To Do If Your Child Support Payments Are Overdue

If you are a parent who has a court order requiring you to pay child support and you are late on your payments it is important that you try to pay back at least some portion of your overdue child support. The recipient parent can seek an enforcement action against you to get the money that is owed. You should contact an experienced Charleston child support lawyer as soon as possible.

When You Need A South Carolina Child Support Lawyer

Child support can be complicated, especially if you have overdue child support. The experienced child support attorneys at McCoy & Stokes can help you figure out what to do, and can help you with your child support issues. Call us today.

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