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As I stated above, normal support payments to a debtor with minor children are really safe under the exemption. Through the interview, I found the $10,000.00 payment had been spent down legitimately on living expenses. So, I think the exemption is not at issue here. But I believe the child support exemption could be challenged for cash that is accumulated in an account from child support. I think the fact the children have left the household reinforces the challenge. Finally, I would be concerned if the total arrears were still over $12,000.00 or more. I would be concerned a trustee might want to take the claim over as they do personal injury and other claims.
Now I'm not sure what the final result would be on many of these issues if a creditor or the trustee challenged the exemption. My preliminary research did not reveal any cases on point. I have discussed the issue with more experienced bankruptcy attorneys and they see the issues I'm raising but have no more insight than I have. I also believe this issue is not common when it is an issue, I suspect the value is not so great as to cause a challenge.
The main point here is I never want to surprise my client with bad news if I can prevent it. Even in what seems like a routine consumer bankruptcy case the devil is really in the details. (similar point in one of my earlier blogs - http://medveskylaw.blogspot.com/2014/08/bankruptcy-it-is-all-in-details.html) These are issues that need to be identified, reviewed with the client, evaluate the risk in light of the clients' goals, and identify alternate plans to maximize exemptions.