In a word, no. Debts defined in the bankruptcy code as "Domestic Support Obligations" or DSOs, are automatically non-dischargeable in both a chapter 7 and a chapter 13. If you have an arrearage of either or both, you have to pay it.
What is a Domestic Support Obligation?
The bankruptcy code defines a DSO as a debt (including interest) that accrues before, on, or after the date a bankruptcy is filed that is in the nature of alimony, maintenance, or support. This debt can be owed to a spouse, former spouse, or child (or parent of said child).
A DSO can be created by a:
- Separation agreement
- Divorce decree
- Property settlement agreement
- Court order
- Determination made by a “governmental unit.”
DSOs are given quite a bit of priority under the bankruptcy code, often one of the first debts paid by a bankruptcy trustee.
Can Bankruptcy Still Help?
This does not mean that bankruptcy cannot help you if you are behind in payments on a DSO. A chapter 13 filing can get you into a plan to repay the arrearage over anywhere from three to five years.
This prevents your (ex)spouse from bringing any nastiness to bear to collect, while allowing you the breathing room you need to get caught up.
So What Do I Do?
If you live in southern New Jersey and are behind on alimony and/or child support payments, bankruptcy may well be able to help you. Please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment in my Woodbury office to discuss your case.
Looking for more information about how bankruptcy might help your divorce? Download my free book, Top Questions Divorcing Couples Ask About NJ Bankruptcy.
If you have more general questions about bankruptcy, then download my free book,Top Questions People Ask About Filing Bankruptcy in New Jersey.