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Divorces become emotionally and financially charged quickly. This is especially true for high-asset divorces, where there is a financial incentive to do whatever it takes to maintain one’s wealth. After all, the spouses may have spent a lifetime building that wealth, so it is natural to want to avoid any substantial changes to this. In line with that thinking, during the divorce process, once a child support order is granted, the noncustodial parent may threaten to file bankruptcy to avoid child support. And, custodial parents will wonder if they can go through with this.

Can bankruptcy void child support obligations?

No. Federal bankruptcy laws do not provide any relief for Texas child support obligations. Even during the bankruptcy proceedings, the spouse ordered to pay child support must continue with those payments.

However, it is important to notify the Child Support Division when one hears that their ex-spouse has filed or is planning to file for bankruptcy. This will give them notice, and they may be able to help answer general questions.

What about back child support?

Federal bankruptcy laws also do not allow filers to erase or avoid unpaid child support. This type of debt is non-dischargeable, even in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases. Though, the filer may ask the court to reduce the amount of back child support owed, if they can prove there was an error in the child support calculation.

Can the bankruptcy court modify the child support order?

No. Federal bankruptcy courts cannot and will not modify, in any way, an existing Texas child support order. They will not allow the re-litigation of child support orders as that is the jurisdiction of the family court.

What if the noncustodial parent is not paying “because” they are bankrupt?

Again, bankruptcy or being bankrupt is not an excuse for nonpayment of child support. The family law judge factors in one’s ability to pay in determining the child support amount. Unless a material change in circumstances can be proven in that family law court, like unemployment, child support must be paid as ordered. But, a modification must be requested from the family law court directly, not the bankruptcy court.

For those not receiving payment, contact the family law attorney who is working on or worked on the divorce. They can help walk through the process of enforcement because there are several options, including contacting the Office of the Attorney General to enforce child support orders.