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Can Child Support Be Discharged in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

In Pennsylvania, noncustodial parents pay child support until their children turn 18, but there are some limited exceptions. A noncustodial parent is off the hook if their son or daughter becomes emancipated. Conversely, if a child is disabled and cannot support themselves when they become a legal adult, the family court can order a parent to support their child beyond their 18th birthday.

If the court has ordered you to pay child support, you must continue making the monthly payments. If you lose your job or if you become disabled, you are legally required to continue making the full payments unless you petition the court for a downward modification and the court approves it.

Child support is not retroactive, so if you lose your job in January and petition the court in July of the same year, the court will not modify the payments effective the date you lost your job. Instead, a modification takes effect after the court approves it.

Is Child Support a Dischargeable Debt?

If you’re considering filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you owe child support, you may be wondering if it can be included in the bankruptcy. Unfortunately, child support cannot be discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The same goes for alimony or spousal support.

When a debtor files Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the “automatic stay” stops most creditors dead in their tracks, but child support is an exception to the rule. A bankruptcy filing or automatic stay cannot stop the local child support agency from collecting child support from property that is not in the bankruptcy estate.

For example, if you file Chapter 7, the income you earn after the filing date is not a part of the bankruptcy estate. As a result, the local child support agency is free to go after any income earned after the filing date, including wages, bonuses, workers’ compensation, or Social Security Disability benefits.

Related: Can Holiday Debt Be Included in Bankruptcy?

To learn more about child support being a “priority debt,” and which debts are dischargeable, contact our Harrisburg bankruptcy firm for a free case evaluation.

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