In determining whether an award is actually support, the bankruptcy court should first consider whether it "quacks" like support. Specifically, the court should look to the traditional state law indicia that are consistent with a support obligation. These include, but are not necessarily limited to: a label such as alimony, support, or maintenance in the decree or agreement; a direct payment to the former spouse, as opposed to the assumption of a third-party debt; and payments that are contingent upon such events as death, remarriage, or eligibility for social security benefits.
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky discharged Karren L. Sorah's former husband, Perle Albert Sorah, from an obligation to pay her $750 per month pursuant to a state court divorce decree. The bankruptcy court found that the payments, though decreed as "maintenance" by the state court, were not actually [**2] in the nature of maintenance, and were therefore dischargeable in bankruptcy pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(5)(B). The district court affirmed.
Was the obligation in the nature of a support?
Upon further review, the court reversed the decision of the district court and remanded the case. The court found that the divorce court clearly expressed intent to create a maintenance award, explicitly stated that it was awarding maintenance, and structured the obligation as a maintenance obligation. The court held that the bankruptcy court erred in not finding that the obligation was clearly in the nature of support.