Child support is not dischargeable in a bankruptcy. This means that if you owe child support, your filing a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 will not allow you to eliminate that debt. If you are owed child support, your claim for child support remains during the bankruptcy, but the bankruptcy may complicate your collection efforts.
In a Chapter 7, the automatic stay stops collection activity of most creditors, but not for child support. This means you can bring a lawsuit to collect child support on any assets of the debtor that are not property of the estate. While most assets of the debtor would be part of the bankruptcy estate, any wages or income earned after the filing date are not property of the estate, and could be subject to a collection action.
Because child support is a priority debt, if there are any assets to be sold by the trustee, if you have a child support claim, your claim would be paid first. If you believe there are nonexempt assets, you need to file a Proof of Claim in order to collect. However, most Chapter 7 bankruptcies are “no assets” filings, meaning there are no nonexempt assets for the trustee to collect and sell.
If you filed a Chapter 7, when you case concludes and you receive your discharge, you must remember that it does not affect your child support obligation, including any arrears that have accumulated.
While child support obligations may be modifiable, the fact you lost a job or have been required to work fewer hours may not be seen by a Tennessee court as grounds for a change in your child support obligation. The court presumes you will find another job and regain your ability to pay your child support.