Can bankruptcy wipe out back child support and alimony that I owe to my ex?


When you file bankruptcy, you are seeking to discharge (or wipe out) your debts.  Most debts can be wiped out in bankruptcy.  However, there are certain debts which survive bankruptcy.  The list is fairly long, but it is easiest to describe these debts as priority debts, or more simply put, “government stuff.”

You will not get a discharge of most tax debts (unless they’re more than 3 years old, for personal income tax, etc.), you cannot discharge student loans, you cannot discharge criminal restitution, and you cannot discharge domestic support obligations (“DSO”) such as child support and alimony.  Government stuff survives bankuptcy.

What gets a little more confusing is whether you can discharge debts arising out of a divorce or separation agreement.  For example, you get divorced and agree to pay the $10,000 AmEx bill.  You can go bankrupt and wipe out your liability to AmEx.  However, when they eventually sue your ex-wife, she has a claim against you for the amount of money she pays AmEx to go away, because bankruptcy does not discharge your liability to her for that debt which arose out of the divorce or separation agreement.  In practical terms, though, if you are filing for bankruptcy, the odds are that your ex is close to filing too, and this may be a moot point.

This is not legal advice.  If you need help go to

If you would like a more technical answer, then according to,

Not all debts are discharged. The debts discharged vary under each chapter of the Bankruptcy Code. Section 523(a) of the Code specifically excepts various categories of debts from the discharge granted to individual debtors. Therefore, the debtor must still repay those debts after bankruptcy. Congress has determined that these types of debts are not dischargeable for public policy reasons (based either on the nature of the debt or the fact that the debts were incurred due to improper behavior of the debtor, such as the debtor’s drunken driving).

There are 19 categories of debt excepted from discharge under chapters 7, 11, and 12. A more limited list of exceptions applies to cases under chapter 13.

Generally speaking, the exceptions to discharge apply automatically if the language prescribed by section 523(a) applies. The most common types of nondischargeable debts are certain types of tax claims, debts not set forth by the debtor on the lists and schedules the debtor must file with the court, debts for spousal or child support or alimony, debts for willful and malicious injuries to person or property, debts to governmental units for fines and penalties, debts for most government funded or guaranteed educational loans or benefit overpayments, debts for personal injury caused by the debtor’s operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated, debts owed to certain tax-advantaged retirement plans, and debts for certain condominium or cooperative housing fees.

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