In the state of Missouri, parents have a responsibility to provide financial support for their children. Following a divorce, the non-custodial parent may be required to make payments to the custodial parent to provide for clothes, groceries, school supplies, medical treatment, daycare, and other necessities.
Divorce courts make every effort to calculate child support amounts fairly, taking into consideration both parents’ incomes, as well as the costs for the child’s standard of living. However, sometimes mathematics just don’t add up. When two parents were together, they may have been able to get by, but once they split into two households, one or both may be struggling financially.
When a parent falls on difficult financial times, child support payments can quickly become overwhelming. In contentious divorces, one spouse might even avoid making child support payments altogether to exact revenge against the ex-spouse.
Can Bankruptcy Erase Child Support Debt?
Divorced parents who have gotten into financial trouble may consider filing for bankruptcy to ease their debt burden. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, certain debts are discharged, including:
Some types of debts, however, do not go away in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Among them are student loans, alimony and spousal support payments, and child support. This means that even after filing for bankruptcy, a parent is still obligated to pay child support to his ex-spouse.
Modifying a Child Support Order
In some situations, a child support order can be modified. In order to petition for a modification, you must demonstrate before the court that your financial circumstances have changed significantly and that you no longer have the ability to pay.
By itself, filing bankruptcy is not enough to modify a child support order. Some circumstances that might qualify for a modification of the judgment include unemployment or a reduction of income.
Even when a support order is modified, the modification is only effective retroactive to the date the modification was served. This means that any back payments owed will not be modified, only the amounts of payments going forward.
What to Do About Late Child Support Payments
Failing to pay child support is a serious offense in the eyes of the St. Louis family court system. The judge may impose serious consequences, including wage garnishment and/or seizing assets or property to make the payments. What’s more, the government may revoke a driver’s license or passport, as well as seize tax refunds and bank accounts to distribute child support payments to the custodial parent.
But what if you don’t have anything left to seize? Although a bankruptcy can’t eliminate back child support payments you owe, it can make it easier to get out of debt. In a St. Louis Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will set up a debt repayment plan that includes your owed child support. Then, you will be able to spread out the payments you owe over 36 to 60 months, in a smaller and more manageable monthly payment.
If you have other financial obligations that are limiting your ability to pay child support, such as credit card debts, medical bills, personal loans, and unsecured debts, filing bankruptcy may discharge those debts. In this way, a bankruptcy can help you by freeing up money that you can use to afford your child support payments more easily.
Contact a St. Louis Bankruptcy Attorney
Divorced parents who are in financial distress have a lot to worry about. If you or a loved one are struggling under the weight of child support debt and considering bankruptcy, we can help. Michael Benson is a qualified St. Louis bankruptcy lawyer with years of experience helping St. Louis residents get back on their feet financially. For specific advice on bankruptcy and child support, contact us today to schedule a free initial visit.