CHILD SUPPORT MODIFICATION; DISCHARGE OF MARITAL DEBT IN BANKRUPTCY
TO BE PUBLISHED: AFFIRMED
PANEL: SENIOR JUDGE LAMBERT PRESIDING; CLAYTON AND THOMPSON CONCUR
DATE RENDERED: 6/12/2009
Dad appealed TC’s finding that he was voluntarily underemployed and corollary order denying his motion for modification of child support, as well as TC’s finding that Dad was in contempt for his failure to pay a deficiency judgment related to a marital debt.
Motion for Modification of Child Support: While parties’ divorce was pending, Dad quit federal job, claiming medical grounds, but TC found after trial that Dad was voluntarily underemployed and imputed income to him based on his prior earnings. The following year, Dad filed his Motion for Modification of Child Support, claiming that his income had dropped to less than half that of his former employment. TC reiterated its previous finding that Dad was voluntarily underemployed and held that he had presented no new evidence since the prior determination.
CA held that Dad failed to make a showing of a substantial and continuing material change in circumstance, as required by statute for child support modification, as the circumstance he presented to the court at the modification hearing was not materially different than that presented to the court at the trial.
Finding of Contempt regarding failure to pay Debt: The parties’ divorce decree provided that Dad was to pay a deficiency judgment arising from repossession of an automobile. Dad subsequently sought bankruptcy protection, listing the automobile debt as an obligation. At the modification hearing, Dad was held in contempt for failure to pay this debt. Dad appealed the finding of contempt, claiming discharge in bankruptcy, in part because Mom did not object in bankruptcy court. Mom argued that Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 precludes bankruptcy discharge of all marital and domestic relations obligations.
After noting that state courts have concurrent jurisdiction with federal courts over whether a debt has been discharged, CA held that because the automobile debt was agreed to by the parties and imposed on Dad by decree, it was “in connection with a divorce decree” and was therefore non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Thus, TC used its power of contempt to enforce its orders, and did so without error.