Bankruptcy itself does not contain a mechanism for modifying your alimony payments. In fact, if you owe alimony to your spouse or ex-spouse, you must pay it in full during the course of your Chapter 13 case. If you owe alimony to a government agency, the payment rules are a little different, but even then, if you still owe some alimony at the end of your case, it won't be discharged (wiped out).
If you need to modify your alimony payments, your best bet is to go to domestic relations court. Be sure to consult an experienced family law attorney first though.
What Is Alimony for Bankruptcy Purposes?
Alimony includes any domestic support obligation owed to a spouse, former spouse, or the government that is in the nature of support, regardless of whether it is specifically called "alimony."
Requesting an Alimony Modification in Domestic Relations Court
Depending upon the procedural rules in your local domestic relations court, you may be able to ask the court to re-evaluate your alimony payments because you are filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and undergoing financial hardship. While the domestic relations court has the authority to reduce your payment, it may actually increase the payment because your other debts will be reduced by your bankruptcy. Be sure to consult with a local family law expert before you request a review of your support order.
You Must Pay in Full Any Alimony Owed to Your Spouse or Ex-Spouse
Alimony that you owe to your spouse or former spouse before you file for bankruptcy gets first priority for repayment, meaning it is at the front of the line to receive money from your monthly trustee payment. In order to get a Chapter 13 discharged, you must pay in full any alimony owed to your spouse or former spouse.
Different Rules for Alimony Owed to a Government Agency
On the other hand, alimony obligations that are involuntarily assigned or owed directly to a governmental entity (instead of to your spouse or former spouse) do not have to be paid in full through your bankruptcy as long as all of your disposable income is being used to repay your debt. But in this situation, because alimony is not dischargeable, you will have to repay any remaining alimony debt on your own after your bankruptcy.
Consult with an Attorney to Determine Your Best Course of Action
Bankruptcy and divorce issues commonly intersect, and the results can be complicated. If you owe alimony or child support, it would be wise to consult with an experienced attorney if you are considering Chapter 13 bankruptcy.