Bankruptcy Law Questions? Ask a Bankruptcy Lawyer Now.
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Bankruptcy can relieve you of liability for your debts. Therefore, your creditors would not generally be able to go after you for payment. However, the Bankruptcy Code specifically states that domestic support obligations are excepted from discharge, which basically means that you’d still owe such debts after bankruptcy. Domestic support obligations obviously cover things like alimony and child support, but the courts have liberally construed that provision in the law to mean almost any obligation stemming from a divorce. Therefore, if the judge orders you to repay a certain debt so that your spouse does not have to pay it, then that is considered a domestic support obligation and will it will not be discharged. That can definitely pertain to legal fees.
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You framed your follow up question as though the divorce judge can ignore the Bankruptcy Code, but that’s not what would happen. The Bankruptcy Code does not discharge you from domestic support obligations (or other debts owed to a spouse in connection with a divorce). Here’s the law:
§ 523. Exceptions to discharge
(a) A discharge under section 727, 1141, 1228 (a), 1228 (b), or 1328 (b) of this title does not discharge an individual debtor from any debt—
(5) for a domestic support obligation;
(15) to a spouse, former spouse, or child of the debtor and not of the kind described in paragraph (5) that is incurred by the debtor in the course of a divorce or separation or in connection with a separation agreement, divorce decree or other order of a court of record, or a determination made in accordance with State or territorial law by a governmental unit;
If you were to file for divorce now before the judge orders you to pay the attorney fees, then the bankruptcy wouldn’t even come into play because it only discharges debts owed when the bankruptcy is filed … not debts incurred after the bankruptcy is filed. If you wait to file for bankruptcy after the judge orders you to pay the attorney fees, then the aforementioned bankruptcy law comes into play, which specifically states that domestic support obligations (and other debts owed to a spouse in connection with a divorce) are not dischargeable.
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