Bankruptcy is a legal process designed to give you a fresh start when your finances have become unmanageable. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, you can discharge many types of debts, including credit card debts and medical bills. However, some debts are exempt from bankruptcy discharge, such as student loan and child support debts. Although bankruptcy law can help you with your overall financial situation, it will not allow you to get out of your obligation to financially support your child.
California law requires you to pay child support until your child is emancipated or reaches 18 years of age. If your child is unmarried and still enrolled full-time in high school, you may have to pay child support until your child reaches the age of 19. If you fall behind in your child support payments, your wages may be garnished for up to 50% of your paycheck if you are supporting other dependents, and up to 60% of your paycheck if you are not supporting other dependents.
Your child support obligation takes priority over other debts in your bankruptcy case. This means that any proceeds from your bankruptcy liquidation will apply first toward your child support debt. While you are in bankruptcy, an automatic stay issued by the bankruptcy court protects you from any debt collection actions or from your debts being garnished. However, the automatic stay does not apply to any wages or income that you earn after you file for bankruptcy. Therefore, your wages still can be garnished for past-due child support payments.
Alternatively, if you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13, you enter into a plan approved by the bankruptcy trustee to repay all or at least a portion of your debts over a period of three to five years. If you owe back child support, you will repay that debt through your Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan. However, Chapter 13 bankruptcy does give you more protection from child support collections actions. Nonetheless, you must be current in your child support obligation before you can receive a Chapter 13 bankruptcy discharge.
At the Law Offices of Vincent W. Davis & Associates, we truly understand how difficult and stressful it can be to make the decision to file for bankruptcy, particularly when you have a child support obligation. Facing the crucial decisions that you must make during these types of situations makes it even more essential that you seek out the advice and guidance of experienced counsel. Contact our office today, schedule a consultation with an experienced California child support attorney, and learn how we can assist you with your case.