Filing for bankruptcy does not end your obligation to pay alimony (spousal support) or child support after divorce. If you filed for bankruptcy, you typically cannot discharge your alimony payments. You are still legally bound to make payments. Bankruptcy law is very clear about alimony:
Section 523(a)(5) of the Bankruptcy Code explicitly states that alimony and child support are non-dischargeable.
Unfortunately, Section 523(a)(5) specifically declares domestic support obligations, which include spousal support and child support, as being non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Accordingly, filing bankruptcy will not eliminate your ongoing spousal support obligations or liability for past-due payments.
When filing bankruptcy the alimony will be listed as a priority debt. In bankruptcy, all debts are listed, even if they’re not subject to discharge. Furthermore, at the meeting of creditors you may be asked to complete a short form that lists the name and contact info of the spousal support recipient.
Modify Spousal Support In Family Court
The next step (or better yet, before you file bankruptcy) is to have your divorce attorney petition the family court to modify the current alimony payments. It is important to understand that a bankruptcy judge cannot stop or modify an order of alimony made in family court. The only way to change your alimony payments is to go back to family court and request a modification of the alimony.
It is also important to understand that even if you get a temporary modification of the alimony by a family court judge, you still might be responsible for arrears. In other words, a judge may temporary lower the monthly alimony, but you might still be in arrears for the difference. For example, if your modified alimony is $200 less per month and you end up paying $800 less over the course of four months, you will need to make up this amount down the road. Arrears will come down to what the judge considers fair based on your new financial situation and income potential, among other factors.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Bankruptcy and Alimony?
As every situation is different, so it is best to discuss your case with an attorney to get more information on your options with alimony and child support before filing bankruptcy. Getting a modification of alimony is difficult. Legal representation is often required to present a case that will persuade the family court to modify your alimony and child support while you recover financially.