When the parents of a minor child do not live together the law requires both parents to continue to financially support the child. Usually that means that one parent pays court ordered child support to the other parent. If you are the parent ordered to pay child support, and you have a significant arrearage, you may be hoping that debt will eventually go away. Fort Worth child support lawyer Jon Boyd discusses back child support and whether it ever goes away.
In Texas, Section 154.001 et seq. of the Texas Family Code governs issues related to child support. Pursuant to that statute, a court may order either parent to pay child support:
until the child is 18 years of age or until graduation from high school, whichever occurs later;
until the child is emancipated through marriage, through removal of the disabilities of minority by court order, or by other operation of law;
until the death of the child; or
if the child is disabled as defined in this chapter, for an indefinite period.
Failing to pay your court ordered child support results in a child support arrearage and may subject you to a variety of sanctions imposed by the court. Once your child support payments go into arrears, your account will remain in arrears until the debt is satisfied.
Bankruptcy protection is something people rely on when their debt overwhelms their ability to pay that debt. It is intended to be used as an avenue of last resort or when an emergency (such as a medical emergency) results in excessive debt that cannot realistically be repaid. While most debts can be discharged through bankruptcy, child support cannot.
If you file for bankruptcy protection, you must inform the Trustee of your child support debt at the 341 meeting of creditors. The Trustee will then inform the holder of the domestic support order (the parent receiving child support) of bankruptcy payment rights and the availability of child support collection services. Both the domestic support holder and the state enforcement agency will also receive notice of the bankruptcy discharge.
Unlike most debts, child support cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy. In other words, you cannot wipe out a child support debt in bankruptcy. It is also a “priority debt” that receives special treatment in bankruptcy, meaning that if money is available to pay creditors, child support obligations get paid first. It also means that if you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the Trustee sells property that you cannot protect with a bankruptcy exemption, the money received from the sale of that property will be applied to the child support obligation. If there is insufficient money available to satisfy your child support arrearage during the bankruptcy, the debt will still exist after your bankruptcy discharge.
If you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must also include your child support debt in your list of creditors. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy you must create a repayment plan that pays off most of your debt. All child support arrearages must be paid back in full through your Chapter 13 repayment plan, and you must continue to make your ongoing child support payments. At the end of your repayment plan period (usually three to five years) you must certify to the court that you are current on all child support obligations or you will not be allowed to receive your final discharge.
If you are behind on child support and you are concerned about how that debt will follow you in the future, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Fort Worth child support lawyer immediately to discuss your legal options. Contact an experienced Fort Worth child support lawyer at Boyd Family Law to schedule your appointment today.