Filing for bankruptcy protection is rarely an easy decision and one not made lightly. It usually comes after a long period of stress and worry about overwhelming debts that seem impossible to pay. But if you are a divorced parent or one who is in the middle of a divorce, that worry may be compounded by concerns about how filing for bankruptcy may affect your child custody rights. Rest assured, an Alpharetta child custody attorney with Hait & Kuhn can help you with your case.
The simple answer is that a bankruptcy in and of itself should not have any impact on your custody rights. That said, if the financial or other circumstances which led to your bankruptcy have also made it difficult or impossible to provide a safe, healthy environment for your children, a court may take those underlying facts into consideration when making custody determinations or alterations to existing arrangements.
It’s Always About the Best Interests of the Child
In Alpharetta, Georgia, as elsewhere, a judge making child custody decisions is guided by one overarching concern: what is in the best interests of the child. This involves the evaluation of many factors, including the financial means and situations of both parents. Listed among the statutory factors a Georgia judge is to consider in determining the best interest of the child is:
“The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent.”
If a parent’s finances are so dire that they put such basic child-raising necessities at risk, a judge may very well consider that fact. Georgia judges have wide discretion in making custody decisions, and how they weigh a parent’s financial circumstances, including the filing of a bankruptcy, compared to the several other best interest factors can vary from judge to judge. While a judge could view a bankruptcy as an indication of financial irresponsibility, it is just as likely that a judge could see it as an affirmative effort on the part of the parent to resolve their financial troubles in a responsible manner.
Bankruptcy Won’t Relieve a Parent of Child Support Obligations
One thing a bankruptcy filing will absolutely not change is any obligation of the filing parent to make child support payments. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding, child support and spousal maintenance payments remain the responsibility of the debtor. If you file a Chapter 7 petition and you fail to make a child support payment that first becomes payable after the date of the filing of the petition, the bankruptcy proceeding could be dismissed and you could lose whatever protection and relief the bankruptcy code had provided.
Similarly, in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, child support obligations are treated as non-dischargeable “priority” debts, meaning that they will be the first to get paid in the Chapter 7 plan.
North Metro Litigators: Alpharetta Child Custody Attorneys and Bankruptcy Lawyers
At North Metro Litigators, we understand how painful bankruptcy can be and how important your children are to you. Our experienced and committed Alpharetta child custody attorneys help guide parents through bankruptcy, divorce, and family law challenges. Call us today at (678) 944-0000 or contact us to arrange for your free initial consultation.