Discharge Requirements in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case- Domestic Support Obligation Statement
One of the requirements for the debtor to receive a discharge of his debt is that he must make a certification to the court that domestic support obligations have been satisfied (§1328 USC).
Who needs to file such a certification? §1328(a) states that a debtor who is required by a judicial or administrative order, or by statute, to pay a domestic support obligation. Most of our clients are not required to pay support and often think they are therefore not required to file a certification. However, even though the language does not seem to be clear, in the Eastern District of Missouri, that is the St. Louis Metropolitan area on the West side of the Mississippi (not the Illinois side), EVERY debtor has to file a certification that either no support obligation is owed or that all obligations have been paid.
What does the statute mean with “domestic support obligation”? It is a debt that accrued “before, on, or after” the petition date. It also includes interest that accrues under applicable non-bankruptcy law.
Examples are debt owe to a spouse, former spouse, child of the debtor, child’s parent, legal guardian, responsible relative, or governmental unit.
The debt must be in the nature of 1. Alimony, 2. Maintenance, or 3. Support (which also includes assistance that was provided by a governmental unit).
If the debtor is not current the requirement of filing the certification can be waived by the court, if the debtor files a waiver of discharge in regard to the domestic support obligation. The court would have to approve the waiver.
One exception to full payment is the case when the assignee of a domestic support obligation agrees to less than full payment of its claim and the plan provides that all of debtor’s disposable income for five years will be applied toward the plan. The debtor still will receive a discharge for all other debts even though the claims are not fully paid. The part of the domestic support obligation that is not paid remains non-dischargeable.
The domestic support obligation certificate cannot be filed before the court files the reminder of the certificate. If the debtor files the certificate before the court files the reminder, it will not be counted as filed, and the court will close the case without discharge. The right timing is crucial.