On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency concerning the novel coronavirus disease, also known as “COVID-19.” In an effort to slow the spread of the disease in the United States, state governors instructed schools to close and for countless “non-essential” businesses to shut down. As a direct result of these orders, millions of Americans across the country lost their jobs.
Because of COVID-19, the American economy has taken a hit, a big hit. Now, workers who thrived in certain industries are finding themselves unemployed and unable to get work in the same occupation they did before the pandemic. Other workers are also struggling to find work.
Due to the surge in unemployment, many noncustodial parents who pay child support are 1) falling behind on their payments, and 2) are considering filing bankruptcy for the first time in their lives. The question is, “Can child support be discharged in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies?”
Child Support Cannot Be Discharged
Like spousal support (alimony), child support cannot be reduced or discharged in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. “Why?” you might ask. Because lawmakers decided child support was too important to be wiped out in a bankruptcy. They felt that it’s in the public’s best interests to ensure that noncustodial parents pay their full child support obligation, even if they fall under hard times.
Not all debts can be included in bankruptcy and child support is one of the big ones. A debtor cannot reduce their child support debt through Chapter 13 either. However, child support is considered a “priority debt,” so if a debtor files a Chapter 13 (debt reorganization bankruptcy) and they owe child support, the child support would be prioritized over other debts. So, more of the debtor’s disposable income would go toward the child support debt, which in effect could reduce what the debtor pays to non-priority debts, such as credit cards.
Do You Need to Lower Your Payments?
If you cannot afford your current child support payment because you are unemployed or underemployed, the solution is to promptly ask the court for a downward modification. Child support is not retroactive, so it’s important that you act fast. To get started on your child support case, contact Kaplan Law L.L.C. today.