Does My Ex Owe Child Support After Bankruptcy?

Posted by Josh Valentine | Apr 13, 2020

During these challenging times, many people are finding themselves without an income and in debt. Bankruptcy filings may increase after the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Bankruptcy allows individuals to discharge or restructure debt. Some priority debts are not dischargeable, including child support. An individual will still be responsible for missed child support payments and future child support obligations. 

If you have questions about child support, alimony, or post-separation support in North Carolina, talk to the family law attorneys at Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC

You Cannot Discharge Child Support in Bankruptcy

In a bankruptcy, debts generally fall into the categories of dischargeable and nondischargeable debt. Under U.S. Bankruptcy Code Section 523, a discharge in bankruptcy does not discharge an individual debtor for certain debts, including “domestic support obligation.” Domestic support obligations include child support, spousal support, or alimony incurred in the course of a divorceseparation, or separation agreement. 

Bankruptcy will also not discharge future and continuing obligations. For example, if a parent is ordered to provide child support to their 10-year-old child until age 18, a bankruptcy will not excuse their continuing obligation to provide support for the next 8 years. 

Bankruptcy does not erase missed child support payments. If the non-custodial parent has missed $2,000 in past child support payments, that debt will follow the non-custodial parent after the bankruptcy process is over. 

Collecting Child Support During and After Bankruptcy

Even if the non-custodial parent does not have an income, they may still be responsible for a minimum payment. As of January 1, 2019, when a parent who is obliged to pay child support makes less than $1,108 per month, the guidelines require a minimum support order of $50 per month.  

If the court finds a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed to deliberately or in bad faith avoid child support obligations, the court may calculate child support on the parent's potential income. 

If the non-custodial parent claims not to have an income or claims to be unable to find a job, there are other ways of enforcing child support orders with income withholding from: 

  • Unemployment insurance benefits (UIB), 
  • Workers' comp benefits, 
  • Social Security benefits, 
  • Retirement benefits,
  • Disability benefits, and
  • State and federal income tax refunds. 

Modifying Child Support and Bankruptcy

Before filing for bankruptcy, a non-custodial parent may seek to modify their child support obligations based on financial change of circumstances. A change in circumstances to justify a change in child support generally requires a difference of 15% or more between the child support payable and child support. 

For example, a non-custodial parent loses their job after layoffs related to coronavirus. The parent is unable to find another job and loses their primary source of income. If the parent seeks a modification of their child support order, the drop in income may be enough to warrant a reduction in their child support orders. 

However, like bankruptcy, a modification of child support is not generally retroactive. If the parent waits three months before requesting a modification, the parent will still be liable for the full amount of any missed child support payments. 

North Carolina Family Law Firm 

If you have any questions about child support obligations, spousal support, or modifying support orders in North Carolina, contact the Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC. Contact us today online or by phone at 704-470-2440 for a consultation.

About the Author

Josh Valentine

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits, and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person who was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer. So that’s why I became an attorney. I understand what you are going through, and I’m here to help you. Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.” Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar