Will Bankruptcy Affect My Right To Alimony?
If you were just notified that a former spouse filed for bankruptcy, you may be concerned about the fate of your alimony payments. Rest assured, you are still entitled to receive your those payments, although obtaining them could end up being a bit more complicated. Read on to learn more about your rights to alimony in Florida.
What is Alimony?
Alimony, or spousal support, is a type of court-order payment made by one former spouse to another after divorce. These payments are intended to help a lesser earning spouse maintain the same standard of living that was enjoyed during the marriage, at least for a period of time. In most cases, a former spouse’s obligation to pay alimony will largely be dictated by his or her ability to pay. This, however, does not mean that by filing for bankruptcy, a person can avoid making any further alimony payments.
Alimony Cannot be Discharged Through Bankruptcy
While it’s unfortunate that a former spouse is having financial troubles, the good news is that alimony recipients are still entitled to those payments even if a former spouse files for bankruptcy, as domestic support obligations aren’t typically discharged, or canceled, in bankruptcy proceedings. Domestic support obligations include debts owed to certain parties, like spouses, former spouses, and children. Alimony awarded in a divorce decree or separation agreement falls under this category and so cannot be forgiven, despite the initiation of bankruptcy proceedings.
Bankruptcy Proceedings Could Still Affect Alimony
Although bankruptcy proceedings won’t result in the discharge of alimony payments, they can still impact a former spouse’s receipt of these payments. For instance, when someone files for bankruptcy, courts often order an automatic stay on outstanding debt payments, which means that creditors cannot immediately continue with collecting an outstanding debt. Fortunately, there are exceptions to this rule, one of which applies to alimony. If, for instance, the alimony recipient is seeking property that doesn’t fall within the bankruptcy estate, then the automatic stay won’t bar that person from filing a civil case. Further, if the spouse who filed for bankruptcy has income that is withheld to meet an alimony or child support obligation via a court order, then that withholding can continue even after someone files for bankruptcy.
Former Spouses Can Seek to Modify Alimony
If there are extenuating circumstances behind a person’s filing for bankruptcy, such as a medical issue or job loss, the filer could ask the court to modify the alimony award, or even to stop payments temporarily. If, however, a former spouse doesn’t take this step, but just stops making alimony payments, the recipient spouse has a few different options, including asking the court to enforce the alimony award by withholding the amount from the other party’s wages.
Do You Have Questions About Alimony?
Dedicated Fort Lauderdale alimony lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. has more than 20 years of experience helping Florida residents assert their legal rights during and after divorce. Call 954-945-7591 today to schedule a free consultation with our legal team and learn more about how we can help with your case.