Child Support, Alimony, and Related Attorney Fees in Bankruptcy

Debts owed for alimony or child support are not dischargeable in a bankruptcy case. Alimony and child support payments can not be discharged, regardless of whether it relates to arrearages (past due amounts) or an ongoing support obligation.  However, past due amounts can be paid over time through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and court enforcement action can be avoided.

If a noncustodial parent has become delinquent and isn’t making payments according to the child support order, the custodial parent may go back to court and file an enforcement action, which means that the parent asks the judge to make the delinquent parent follow the support order and make the required payments. Custodial parents can either file this action on their own and represent themselves in court, or hire a private attorney to pursue the action on their behalf.

The judge has several choices in these situations. It’s not uncommon for judges to fine or jail delinquent parents for “contempt of court” (meaning, the delinquent parent disobeyed a court order – in this case, a child support order). A judge might also require a delinquent parent to pay a portion of the outstanding child support as a condition of being released from jail.  Filing a Chapter 13 case can avoid these outcomes.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has also ruled that court-ordered payment of attorneys’ fees incurred in post-divorce / child custody litigation should be recognized as child support, and is also non-dischargeable. Dvorak v. Carlson, 986 F.2d 940 (5th Cir. 1993). The language of the governing statute does not appear to support the Fifth Circuit’s ruling that attorney’s fees related to divorce, alimony, child support or child custody issues are also non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Nevertheless, the Fifth Circuit Circuit Court of Appeals is the federal appellate court that establishes binding legal precedent for all bankruptcy cases filed in Texas.  Therefore, this is the binding common law rule for all Texas bankruptcy cases.

If you have questions about how child support relates to bankruptcy, I recommend consulting a qualified Fort Worth bankruptcy attorney.  Although there are many Fort Worth bankruptcy attorneys to choose from, my office distinguishes itself by giving you personalized, caring service.  As an experienced and dedicated Fort Worth bankruptcy attorney, I can offer advice on how to proceed based on your specific situation.  You and I can meet face to face to discuss your options.  To schedule a FREE consultation, please contact me at (817) 732-7590 or (972) 819-3861.  You can also send me an E-mail or complete the Free Case Evaluation.