December 17, 2017

Can I Discharge Alimony in Bankruptcy?

Domestic support obligations are not dischargeable in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case filed on or after October 17, 2005.  However, equitable distribution obligations arising from a division of assets or debt can be discharged in Chapter 13 cases.I am frequently asked whether alimony, child support and other “domestic support obligations” can be discharged in bankruptcy court. Very often in this country, money troubles and divorce rates are related.

Domestic support obligations are very broadly defined, and include alimony, maintenance, child support, guardian ad litem fees, and attorney’s fees and court costs owed to a spouse or former spouse because of child custody, divorce, or separation.  Importantly, they also include agreements with a spouse or former spouse to be responsible for debts.

Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 differ on domestic support obligations like alimony

Domestic support obligations are not dischargeable in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case filed on or after October 17, 2005.

However, equitable distribution obligations arising from a division of assets or debt can be discharged in Chapter 13 cases.

You and your estranged spouse can file a joint bankruptcy petition (one petition for both of you, instead of two separate ones for each of you) as long as you are legally married, even if you live in separate households.  This can save you legal and filing fees related to a bankruptcy case.

If you have joint marital debts, or believe that there is property to distribute during your divorce, you would be wise to contact a bankruptcy attorney early in your separation or divorce, in order to determine your best course of action.