In our current financial reality, with debts piling up and income becoming harder and harder to attain, bankruptcy is becoming much more acceptable. But, for those also dealing with child support orders, they may wonder how the bankruptcy process affects their child support obligation?

Do I have to keep paying child support?

Yes. The most important thing to remember about bankruptcy and child support is that bankruptcy (a federal filing), does not automatically waive or modify a New Jersey child support order (a state order). These are two separate judicial processes. Those that have been ordered to pay child support must continue to pay child support, even in bankruptcy.

What about unpaid child support?

If one is behind on child support, also known as being in arrears, unpaid child support is a non-dischargeable debt in bankruptcy. In other words, even in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where most, if not all, other debts are erased at the end of the process, unpaid child support cannot and will not be erased at the end of the bankruptcy process.

What if I think the amount I owe is incorrect?

The bankruptcy process may be able to help, if one does not believe that the amount of unpaid child support is correct. The filer can contest that amount calculated by the New Jersey Family Support Payment Center, if the filer believes there has been an error in the child support calculation, which is, unfortunately, rather common. Though, this is a very limited process, and the federal bankruptcy court will never modify an existing child support order. If one disagrees with that child support order, an appeal should be filed.

What if the child support is what is causing the bankruptcy?

The child support order is supposed to take one’s ability to pay in to consideration, but if there has been a change in circumstances that affects one’s ability to pay, then the court can amend the amount due. The noncustodial parent will need to file for a modification though and prove there has been some change in circumstance, like a reduction of income, unemployment or some other similar type of event.

This is where having an attorney with experience in both family and bankruptcy law can be extremely important. This type of attorney can ensure one’s rights are protected in both processes, and work out solutions to help one move forward and prosper.