How Does Bankruptcy Affect Child Support in Florida?
Updated on 29 November 2023
In the state of Florida, child support payments are not directly affected by bankruptcy. No type of filing can eliminate your ongoing obligations, discharge your past-due support debt, or force the modification of a family court order.
However, this does not mean that filing will not help improve your financial situation if you are struggling with child support arrears. While you cannot discharge these obligations, you can use bankruptcy to wipe out most other unsecured debts, and this will allow you to reallocate your income towards making these payments and repaying what you owe.
Can Child Support Debt Be Discharged in Florida?
No, it cannot be discharged in a Florida bankruptcy, whether you file for Chapter 7 or 13. If you’ve been ordered to pay child support, any arrearages are considered priority unsecured debts that are not dischargeable in your case.
It is also important to know that while filing for bankruptcy can prevent most creditors from pursuing collection action against you while your case is pending, wage garnishments, court proceedings, and lawsuits involving these types of debts will continue even after you submit your petition. Your obligation to keep paying will not be suspended when you file, and the law expects you to continue to make your payments.
Child Support Debt in Chapter 7
Arrears are defined as priority unsecured debts under Florida Chapter 7 bankruptcy laws. As such, it takes precedence over other types of debts when the debtor files for protection, which means that this sort of debt must be paid in full before non-priority creditors such as medical providers and credit card companies are paid anything. It also cannot be discharged in Chapter 7, and you must continue to meet your court-ordered obligations after your case is filed.
Child Support in Chapter 13
With Chapter 13, any past-due obligations must be paid in full as part of a 3-to-5 year repayment plan. While many debts are lowered through this type of bankruptcy, this debt cannot be reduced or eliminated. In fact, the court won’t approve a repayment plan that doesn’t include full payment of your arrears. You will also continue to be subject to your court-ordered obligations after you file for bankruptcy in Florida.
What Can You Do?
Child support can be a stressful and emotional topic to discuss. You may be in a situation where you have been paying on time for years, but then something happens that changes your economic circumstances, and you find yourself falling behind.
If you owe this type of debt, bankruptcy can help you deal with your financial difficulties. Even though it won’t eliminate the requirement to pay, filing can drastically reduce your other expenses, making keeping up with your court-ordered payments a much easier task.
At DebtStoppers, we are committed to helping people like you confront their money troubles head-on and get back on track with paying what they owe. Call or text DebtStoppers today at 786-420-4545 to set up a free consultation to discuss your financial situation with one of our experienced Florida attorneys.
Managing Child Support Payments After Bankruptcy
Although bankruptcy does not directly affect child support obligations in Florida, it can help you better manage your finances and prioritize these payments. By eliminating or reducing other debts, you can free up more of your income to meet your child support obligations and make up for any arrears.
Requesting a Child Support Modification
If you're struggling to make your child support payments, it might be worth considering requesting a modification of your existing support order. You can file a petition to modify your child support order in Florida family court if there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a substantial increase or decrease in your income, or a change in the child's needs. Keep in mind that the modification process can take time, and you are still responsible for making the original payment amount until a new order is issued.
Communicate with the Other Parent
Open communication with the other parent can be crucial when facing financial difficulties. Inform them of your situation and your intention to file for bankruptcy. They may be more understanding and willing to work with you if they are aware of your financial struggles. However, it's important to remember that any informal agreements made between parents are not legally binding, and you must continue to follow the court-ordered child support arrangement until it is officially modified.
Seek Legal Advice
Dealing with child support obligations and bankruptcy can be complex and overwhelming. It is essential to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can guide you through the process and help you understand your options. A knowledgeable attorney can help you create a plan to manage your child support payments and other financial obligations effectively.
While bankruptcy cannot eliminate or reduce child support obligations in Florida, it can help you better manage your finances and prioritize these payments. By understanding your options and working with a skilled attorney, you can take steps to improve your financial situation and continue to support your child. Contact DebtStoppers today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Florida attorneys and explore the best path forward for your unique circumstances.