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Can Child Support Be Discharged in Bankruptcy?


What happens if a noncustodial parent skips too many child support payments? A lot and none of it is good. If an Ohio parent falls behind on their child support payments, the local child support agency will ask the IRS and the state to seize the obligor’s state and federal income tax refunds, but that’s only the beginning. The obligor or noncustodial parent may have a warrant issued for their arrest if for failure to appear in court. The child support agency can file a contempt motion because the parent failed to pay child support. As a result, the court can sentence the parent to jail and order him or her to pay a fine.

The obligor can have their picture featured on a “Most Wanted” poster, and if the parent willfully avoids paying child support, they can be prosecuted under the Ohio Revised Code for criminal nonsupport. What’s more, the parent faces the following:

  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Denial of a U.S. passport
  • Bank levies
  • Real estate liens
  • Hunting and fishing licenses can be revoked
  • The arrears can be submitted to a credit reporting agency

With the above in mind, it’s understandable why so many noncustodial parents with delinquent child support would ask us, “Can child support be discharged in bankruptcy?”

Child Support Can’t Be Discharged in Bankruptcy

Child support cannot be discharged in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcies. Why? Because Congress decided that child support was too important to wipe out in bankruptcy. Congress believes that it is in the public’s interest to ensure parents are fully responsible for their child support obligations.

In both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies, however, child support is a “priority debt.” So, if you liquidate assets from your non-exempt bankruptcy estate (if any) and you have some money to pay off your priority debts, child support will be first in line, above all other priority debts.

Likewise, if you file a Chapter 13 where you’re placed on a 3 to 5-year repayment plan, child support will be a priority over all other debts. For example, if you have credit card debt, child support will be paid first, which could make it so you pay less toward your unsecured debt overall. This is a good thing because you’d probably rather see your funds go to your children then credit card companies.

To explore your bankruptcy options and the benefits of each, contact our firm at (937) 403-9033. We proudly serve clients throughout Ohio.