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If My Ex Files for Bankruptcy Does That Affect My Spousal Support Payments?

Divorce can be a complex and emotionally charged experience. Often, one spouse depends on the other for financial support after the separation. This financial assistance, known as spousal support or alimony, is typically court-ordered and plays a vital role in ensuring both parties can maintain a similar standard of living after the divorce. However, what happens if your ex-spouse files for bankruptcy? Does it affect your right to receive spousal support payments?

At Eric Ollason Attorney at Law, we understand the uncertainties surrounding this issue. The answer to this question depends on various factors, and understanding the legal implications is crucial.


The Basics of Spousal Support in Arizona

In Arizona, spousal support is awarded when one spouse has the financial means to assist the other spouse in maintaining a reasonable standard of living after the divorce. The court considers several factors when determining the amount and duration of spousal support, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age, employment status, and earning abilities of each spouse
  • The financial resources of each spouse, including property, income, and future earning potential
  • The contribution of each spouse to the marriage, including household duties and career sacrifices
  • The standard of living established during the marriage

Once awarded, spousal support becomes a legally binding obligation, and failure to make payments can result in serious consequences, including wage garnishment, contempt of court charges, or even jail time.

The Impact of Bankruptcy on Spousal Support Obligations

When an ex-spouse files for bankruptcy, the impact on spousal support payments depends on the type of bankruptcy filed and the specific circumstances of the case.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also known as a “straight bankruptcy,” most unsecured debts are discharged (eliminated). However, domestic support obligations, including spousal support, child support, and alimony arrears, are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. This means that even if your ex-spouse files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they remain legally obligated to continue making spousal support payments as ordered by the court.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the debtor has a repayment plan to settle some or all of their debts over a three to five-year period. Unlike Chapter 7, spousal support obligations are treated as priority debts in Chapter 13, meaning they must be paid in full before other unsecured debts are addressed.

If your ex-spouse files for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the court typically requires them to include ongoing spousal support payments in their repayment plan. However, any past-due spousal support arrears are considered domestic support obligations and must be paid in full, regardless of the bankruptcy filing.

Automatic Stay and Relief from Stay

When an individual files for bankruptcy, an automatic stay immediately goes into effect, preventing creditors from taking any collection actions against the debtor. This stay also applies to domestic support obligations, such as spousal support payments.

If you are owed spousal support and your ex-spouse files for bankruptcy, you may need to seek relief from the automatic stay to continue receiving your payments or to collect any past-due amounts. This process typically involves filing a motion with the bankruptcy court, demonstrating that the spousal support payments are not part of the bankruptcy estate and should continue to be paid.

Modifying Spousal Support After Bankruptcy

In some cases, the bankruptcy filing itself may constitute a significant change in circumstances that could warrant a modification of the spousal support order. If your ex-spouse’s financial situation has substantially changed due to the bankruptcy, they may request a reduction or termination of spousal support payments.

However, it is essential to note that filing for bankruptcy does not automatically entitle an individual to a modification of spousal support obligations. The court will consider various factors, including the ex-spouse’s remaining assets, income, and earning potential, as well as your financial needs and circumstances.

Our Legal Team Can Help

At Eric Ollason Attorney at Law, we have extensive experience handling complex divorce and family law matters, including issues related to spousal support and bankruptcy. Our team of knowledgeable divorce attorneys can guide you through the legal process, advocate on your behalf, and help you achieve the best possible outcome.

If you have questions about how your ex’s bankruptcy filing may affect your spousal support payments, we’re here to help. Seeking legal guidance and taking the necessary steps ensures you can protect your rights and that you continue receiving the support you need during this challenging time. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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