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In re Olsson

United States District Court, D. Oregon

June 17, 2015

In re: NELS E G OLSSON, MAURA HELENA OLSSON, Debtor. BRIAN S. KOCH, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MAURA H. OLSSON, Defendant-Appellee Bankr. No. 13-62080-tmr-7 Adv. Pro. No. 13-06132-tmr

For Brian S. Koch, Appellant: Kevin T. Lafky, R. Grant Cook, LEAD ATTORNEY, Lafky & Lafky, Salem, OR.

For Maura H. Olsson, Appellee: Keith D. Karnes, LEAD ATTORNEY, Salem, OR.

Page 811

OPINION AND ORDER

Ann Aiken, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff-Appellant Brian Koch appeals a decision of the United States Bankruptcy Court that ruled an attorney fee award entered against the defendant-appellee was not in the nature of child support and dischargeable. After review of the Bankruptcy Court's decision and the parties' arguments, I affirm the decision.

BACKGROUND

Prior to 2010, defendant-appellee Maura Olsson had custody of her minor child; plaintiff-appellant Brian Koch is the father. Koch was obligated to pay monthly child support, and he fell behind in his payments. In 2010, Koch filed for custody of the minor child, and Koch was awarded custody and Olsson was ordered to pay support. However, due to his previous child-support arrearage, Olsson's monthly payments were applied as " set offs" against the amount of child support Koch owed Olsson. Pl.'s Suppl. Excerpt of Record at 33-34 (doc. 8).

In or around December 2011, Olsson filed a Motion for Order to Show Cause why the operative parenting plan should not be modified. Olsson's motion was denied, and the state court found that the motion and supporting affidavit were meritless and misleading. Def.'s Suppl. Excerpt of Record at 12-14 (doc. 5-1). Subsequently, the state court awarded attorney fees to Koch, finding that fees should be awarded to deter others from bringing similar motions to show cause.

Page 812

Notably, the court did not order that the attorney fee award be applied as a " set off" against the amount of child support owed by Koch.

On May 30, 2013, Olsson filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. Koch objected to the dischargeability of the attorney fee award, arguing that the attorney' fees fell within the " domestic support obligations" exception to dischargeability. 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(5).

Bankruptcy Judge Renn entered judgment in favor of Olsson, finding that the debt was a general unsecured debt subject to discharge. Judge Renn reasoned that the attorney-fee award was entered for the purpose of penalizing Olsson and was not issued not for purposes of domestic or child support obligations. Koch now appeals to this court.

DISCUSSION

Section 523(a)(5) of the Bankruptcy Code excepts from discharge any debt " for a domestic support obligation." 11 U.S.C. ยง 523(a)(5). Koch argues that the bankruptcy court erred in determining that the attorney fee ...


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