I wrote a post on the Kentucky Bankruptcy Law blog about how equitable distributions as a result of divorce are treated in a Chapter 13. You can read that post here. In short, a domestic support obligation that arises from the distribution of property will be treated as a general unsecured debt in a Chapter 13. This creates a quandary for settling matters, especially in this market where houses (the major asset that is divided up in a divorce) take so long to sell.
If there is a major asset, like a house, that has equity to be divided and one party wants to hold onto it or control its sale, one strategy is to realize that equity through debt. This can be done two ways. The simplest way and best way is the party holding onto that asset to take out a loan for the amount of equity owed and give that upfront to the other spouse. That used to be easier to do, but with dropping real estate values, obtaining a loan, even a secure one, could be difficult or impossible.
A second approach would be for there to be a promissory note from the spouse keeping control of the asset to the other party and secure that loan against the property. While this is not as good as having cash in hand, it is far better to have a secured debt going into a Chapter 13 than just an unsecured domestic support obligation that can get discharged. Since it is likely a junior lien on the property, then it could still not be paid in full, but the chances are at least better.