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Can I discharge my Harrisburg support obligations in bankruptcy?

by | Mar 22, 2023 | Bankruptcy

The simple answer is probably “no.” While one purpose of bankruptcy is to give honest debtors a “fresh start,” Congress defines the extent of that fresh start through exceptions to discharge (that legal forgiveness of debt most filers are looking for). One of those exceptions is debt “in the nature of” alimony, maintenance or support. The operative words are “in the nature of” since if it walks like support and quacks like support, it is support and not dischargeable. For instance, an obligation to pay a mortgage on the marital residence may sound like it is related to property, but it is “in the nature” of support to allow the dependent spouse (and possibly the kids) to afford to live in the house. Experienced counsel should be able to tell the difference.

All is not lost, however, with a support obligation. If you have difficulty making support payments because of credit card debt, you could discharge the credit card and other unsecured debt (debt not requiring collateral), leaving more funds available to pay the support obligation (provided, in some circumstances, the marital settlement agreement did not obligate you to make the payments). You could also pay support arrears through a payment plan over a 3 to 5 year period while maintaining regular payments during the plan. However, this arrangement can be objected to in state court since the bankruptcy court cannot stop a state court from enforcing its support order.

Support payments are given a special priority in bankruptcy cases. While most unsecured debt is discharged upon the completion of a bankruptcy, support debt generally is not. If you still have questions regarding your particular situation, contact us. We give second chances on Second Street.