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Domestic Support Obligations in the Bankruptcy Code

Todays Date: August 17, 2017

Domestic support obligations constitute a very important type of debt in bankruptcy law. It is important to know what constitutes such an obligation in determining the effect filing bankruptcy will have on you.

It does not matter when a domestic support obligation became due according to the bankruptcy code. The obligation could have arose before, on, or after the filing of a bankruptcy petition. Interest will be considered part of the obligation as well.

Under the Code for a debt to be a domestic support obligation it must be owed to a spouse, former spouse, or child of the debtor or to the child’s parent, legal guardian, or responsible relative. The debt may also be owed to a governmental unit.

For a debt to constitute a domestic support obligation it must be a debt owed on the basis of alimony, maintenance, or support of a current spouse, former spouse, or child of the debtor or the child’s parent. The term or terms applied to the debt are unimportant in determining if the debt is a domestic support obligation.

The obligation must have been established or subject to establishment before, on, or after filing bankruptcy, by reason of a separation agreement, divorce decree, or property settlement agreement, or by an order of a court of record.

No debt will be treated as a domestic support obligation if it is assigned to a nongovernmental agency unless the obligation is assigned voluntarily and assigned solely for the purpose of collection the obligation.

A debtor receives no protection from the automatic stay with respect to domestic support obligations. Collection efforts, garnishments, court orders, and any other attempts to collect the debt can continue.

There can be no discharge of a domestic support obligation in a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A Chapter 13 Plan must provide for priority payments for domestic support obligations.

It is important to understand that bankruptcy will not stop your obligation to pay any domestic support debts. If have fallen far behind on your domestic support obligations, filing Chapter 13 might not be a viable alternative since the arrears must be paid in full under the plan.

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