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How bankruptcy affects child support

Illinois parents who are declaring bankruptcy and who either owe or pay child support may wonder how bankruptcy affects that obligation. The short answer is that bankruptcy does not relieve a parent of child support obligations, and debts related to child support are not discharged in a bankruptcy.

If a parent is struggling to make child support payments and needs the amount reduced due to a change in circumstances, this is an issue that must be approached separately from bankruptcy. In such a case, a parent should file a motion to modify the order. This will only reduce the child support payments going forward. If the parent owes child maintenance payments that are in arrears, they will still be owed in full.

Parents may also wonder what is meant by the phrase debts "in the nature of support" regarding their children as it applies to bankruptcy. This means debts related to the support of their children other than direct support payments pursuant to a court order, and in general, it is also not possible to discharge these obligations in bankruptcy. Medical bills incurred for the child's treatment are one example of this type of debt. This is a complex area, so it may be necessary to seek legal guidance to understand which debts related to children cannot be discharged.

The legal guidelines and decisions that must be made around both bankruptcy and child support are complex. For example, there are different eligibility requirements for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and it may also be necessary to file a motion in court to have child support reduced prior to filing. Those in this situation may want to consult with legal counsel to better understand the differences between the two primary forms of consumer bankruptcy as well as how child support and any back payments owed might be better managed.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Support and Bankruptcy", accessed on March 2, 2015

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