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Priority Debts: Domestic Support Obligations
by Adam Mack
As I explained in my blog post about different types of creditors, priority debts are ones that are considered a higher priority due to the nature of the debt. One type of priority debt is the domestic support obligation (as defined in 11 U.S.C. 207(a)(1)).
What Are Domestic Support Obligations?
A domestic support obligation or DSO is lawyer-speak for any financial support obligation you have toward a spouse, former spouse, or child if that financial obligation is ordered by a court (such as alimony, maintenance, child support, etc.). DSO's are considered a "debt" whether or not you are in arrears because they are an ongoing financial obligation. They MUST be listed on your bankruptcy petition. It doesn't matter who is trying to collect the DSO - it could be the individual to whom the money is owed, a guardian of that individual, or even a state approved court trustee (such as Marc White in Shawnee County) - you're on the hook for it regardless.
Why Should I Care?
Domestic support obligations are the highest-priority of all priority debts and, like all priority debts, cannot be discharged. If you file bankruptcy, your non-exempt assets will be gathered into the bankruptcy estate and the domestic support obligations will be paid first out of it.
The public policy reasoning behind giving DSO's such high priority is clear: the people who rely on domestic support obligations are some of the most vulnerable members of society. That's especially true for those children receiving child support.
The Most Important Part
If you're overwhelmed by debt, have domestic support obligations, and are considering bankruptcy, don't go it alone! If you fail to include a domestic support obligation or improperly list it on your petition, it will be a source of delay and, frankly, a major headache for you to fix. Contact a qualified Kansas bankruptcy attorney today.