How Come I Can Be Thrown in Jail for Not Paying Child Support If I’m in Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy and Delinquent Child Support Payments

You are behind on all your bills, including your child support. Maybe you lost your job, maybe you’ve had a difficult time getting back on your feet after a divorce or maybe you’ve been sick or hurt. So you decide to file for bankruptcy, having heard that a bankruptcy filing will keep creditors from harassing you. But then you get a notice from the court that, unless you pay past-due child support, you could face incarceration. How can that happen? Shouldn’t the bankruptcy laws protect you?

The simple answer is no. The bankruptcy laws do not allow for the discharge of child support (or spousal support) obligations in bankruptcy. So the laws that apply to most other debts simply do not apply to child support obligations. The state agency that has responsibility for collecting and disbursing child support payments can still take any action to try to collect those payments, from calls and letters to garnishment of wages to seizure of assets to jail time. Furthermore, child support arrearages must typically be paid off in full in a Chapter 13 proceeding.

One of the important things to remember is that a jail sentence is based on a finding of “contempt of court.” If you are truly without income — not just simply avoiding paying child support — a judge may be less inclined to order jail time. If you have some income, but not enough to pay child support and other creditors, you may want to consider a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which will potentially eliminate all or most other debt so that you can afford child support payments.

Contact John Hargrave and Associates

We have provided comprehensive counsel to individuals in and around Barrington, New Jersey, since 1977. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 856-547-6500.

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