(6th Cir. Oct. 12, 2016)
The Sixth Circuit affirms the bankruptcy court’s order denying the creditor’s motion to reopen the case. The debtor’s ex-spouse filed the motion four years after the debtor received his discharge. The ex-spouse argued that an obligation arising out of their divorce proceedings should be declared non-dischargeable. The court holds the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion. Opinion below.
Attorney for creditor: Aaron J. Scheinfield
Attorneys for debtor: Silverman & Morris, Geoffrey Lewis Silverman, Karin F. Avery
Attorney: Matt Lindblom
(7th Cir. Sept. 14, 2016)
The Seventh Circuit affirms the bankruptcy court and district court ruling that debtor husband must pay ex-wife’s attorney’s fees as a priority, non-dischargeable domestic support obligation (DSO). Debtor was ordered by a state court to pay $25,000 directly to his ex-wife’s attorney for “significant over-trial”. He never paid and eventually filed Chapter 13. His ex-wife’s attorney filed a DSO claim for $25,000. Debtor objected to the claim but was overruled. On appeal, he argued that the over-trial award did not deserve DSO status because it was not payable to his spouse, former spouse, child, or caregiver as required by §101(14A) of the Code. The 7th Circuit noted that debtor’s interpretation of §101(14A) was correct, but refused to address this argument because he failed to raise it before the bankruptcy court or the district court. Debtor also argued that DSO status should be denied because the over-trial award was intended as punishment, not as support, but the Court noted that every Circuit that has considered the issue (including the 6th, in In re Rugiero, 502 F.App’x. 436, 439 (6th Cir. 2012)) has recognized that attorney fee awards can constitute support under certain circumstances. Opinion below.
Circuit Judges: Ripple, Kanne, and Williams
Attorney for Debtor/Appellant: Jared Nusbaum
Attorney for Appellee: Helen Ludwig
Author: Robert Imperial
(Bankr. S.D. Ind. July 8, 2016)
The court overrules the debtor’s ex-spouse’s objection to confirmation of the Chapter 13 plan. The creditor argued her claim could not be discharged because it was a domestic support obligation. However, the court analyzes the divorce decree and determines that the payments ordered were not tied to health or employment prospects or the creditor’s ability to support herself. Under the circumstances, the court concludes the claim is not for a domestic support obligation and may be discharged. Opinion below.
Attorney for Debtor: Robert Perry Law Office, Robert C. Perry
Attorney for Creditor: Eric C. Welch
2016-07-08 – in re hurst
Author: Matt Lindblom
(Bankr. N.D. Ind. Nov. 26, 2014)
The bankruptcy court sustains the debtor’s objection to his ex-wife’s claim to the extent it purported to be a priority claim arising from a domestic support obligation. The state court had resolved custody and child support issues in its initial divorce decree. A year later it entered an order titled “Order Dividing Marital Assets and Debts,” directing the debtor to pay $50,000 to his ex-wife “[t]o equalize the division of the marital state,” but also stating “the Court finds this judgment to be in the nature of child support and maintenance.” Despite the state court’s statement that the judgment was in the nature of child support and maintenance, the bankruptcy court looks to the context and purpose of the award to determine whether it is a domestic support obligation under the bankruptcy code. Under the circumstances, the bankruptcy court concludes it is not. Opinion below.
2014-11-26 – in re bartlett
(Bankr. S.D. Ind. Oct. 7, 2014)
The bankruptcy court denies the debtor’s motion to dismiss the nondischargeability complaint as to the claim that a debt was a domestic support obligation. The claim was brought by the personal representative of the debtor’s ex-wife’s probate estate. The court rejected the debtor’s argument that the plaintiff failed to state a claim because the probate estate cannot show that it was ever his spouse, former spouse, or child, or that it was a governmental unit, as required by the statute. The court grants the motion to dismiss with respect to the claim that a debt owed to the probate estate was a nondischargeable educational loan. That claim failed to satisfy any of the standards articulated in 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8). Opinion below.
2014-10-07 – in re jackson
(Sixth Circuit B.A.P. Issued June 3, 2014, appeal from Bankr. E.D. Ky.)
The Sixth Circuit B.A.P. affirms the bankruptcy court’s order overruling the debtor’s objection to his ex-wife’s priority domestic support claim for $12,500. The debtor’s obligation to pay half of a mortgage was not a property settlement, but rather is in the nature of a domestic support obligation (as defined by the Bankruptcy Code) based on the intent of the parties in making the agreement. Opinion below.
2014-06-03 – in re thomas