- Case Type:
- Case Status:
- 20-6015 (8th Circuit, February 1, 2021) (8th Circuit, Feb 01,2021) Published
- Affirming the bankruptcy court, the 8th Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP) held that attorney fee awards related to enforce or defend issues involving child support, visitation or custody that effect the welfare of the children qualify as domestic support obligations and therefore not dischargeable pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §523(a)(4). The BAP also rejected a duty on the bankruptcy court to make an independent determination of the facts related to the state court's award of attorney's fees in cross-motion for summary judgment and because of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
- Procedural context:
- The parties filed a cross-motion for summary judgment in the adversary proceeding. The bankruptcy court held that the attorney fees owed to Flesner qualified as domestic support obligation and entered judgment in favor of Flesner for the full amount of its claims. The court directed the debtor to file a plan that properly treated the payment of the attorney fee claims as domestic support obligations. The Sixth Amended Plan was confirmed over the debtor's objection. The debtor appealed to the BAP the issue whether the attorney fees owed to Flesner constituted support obligations under the bankruptcy code.
- A state court ordered the debtor to pay child support for the parties children and one-half of the mother's attorneys fees in favor of Flesner. The debtor appealed the order to the Missouri Court of Appeals, which affirmed the state court's order in its entirety. The debtor then filed a chapter 13 bankruptcy petition and identified the attorney fees as a general unsecured claim. Flesner filed proofs of claim and characterized the attorney fees claim as domestic support obligation and filed an adversary proceeding to determine the dischargeability of the attorney fees which the debtor contested.
- Anita L. Shodeen, Dennis R. Dow, and Kathleen Hvass Sanberg
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