Many people paint with a broad brush when they think about bankruptcy. The assumption is that you get a fresh start and all of your debts are discharged when you file for bankruptcy. While this is generally true, the matter is much more complicated.
First of all, there are different forms of bankruptcy. Most individuals who are experiencing financial difficulties will file a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 is a liquidation bankruptcy, and unsecured debt such as medical bills and credit card balances can be discharged if you file this type of bankruptcy. Plus, when you file for Chapter 7 or 13, you get an automatic stay as soon as you file. This prevents creditors from taking actions to collect on debts while the stay is in effect.
Child support falls under an entirely different category. The stay does not apply to ongoing child support. If you acquire property, including income, after you file, it will be outside of your bankruptcy estate. As a result, your earnings can be attached to satisfy your past due child support obligations. Of course, you will also be required to make your ongoing child support payments. Though your child support responsibilities will not go away if you file for Chapter 7, it may be easier to meet them, because other debts will be discharged.
A Chapter 13 is a reorganization bankruptcy. You maintain possession of your property when you file, and you agree to make manageable payments to your creditors. Your disposable income is used to make these payments and there is a priority to which creditors get paid first. Back child support has a high priority, so it will get paid before general creditors. The bankruptcy repayment plan will be designed to correct your child support arrears, and you will be required to continue to make timely payments as they become due.
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