One of my clients, who is owed past-due child support from her former husband, learned that he recently filed bankruptcy. She wondered whether he can discharge the past-due child support through that bankruptcy. The short answer is that he cannot get rid of his past-due support through bankruptcy. Indeed, the only way a person can get rid of past-due child support amounts of which I am aware is if the person to whom the support is owed agrees to forgive the past-due support, and that is very rarely (never?) a good idea.
The popular belief is that bankruptcy wipes out all debts, giving the debtor a “clean slate,” albeit with a significant blow to that person’s credit rating. But that really isn’t true. The bankruptcy code lists several categories of debt that cannot be discharged as part of a bankruptcy. They include the following:
- Taxes and tax liens;
- Debts obtained through fraud or false pretenses;
- “Domestic support obligations,” meaning child support and alimony debts;
- Debts for willful or malicious injury to person or property (as opposed to negligent injury to person or property);
- Debts for any injury to person or property caused while you were driving (or flying, or sailing) while intoxicated;
- Government-imposed fines or penalties, such as criminal sanctions;
- Student loans; and
- Condominium association fees.
So while many debts can be discharged through bankruptcy, certainly not all debts can be eliminated in that way.