United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
Francis L. QUINN, Appellant,
Sharon QUINN, Appellee.
205*205 Robert F. Casey, Jr., Harvard, MA, for Appellant.
Lawrence M. Frisoli, Frisoli Law Offices, Littleton, MA, for Appellee.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON APPEAL FROM BANKRUPTCY COURT
This is an appeal from a final judgment of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts. Appellant Francis L. Quinn and appellee Sharon Quinn are former spouses who divorced as of February 29, 2012, pursuant to a separation agreement. The agreement provided, among other things, that Francis would fully indemnify Sharon for any obligations arising under the second mortgage taken out by the parties on what had previously been their family home. As of June 13, 2012, Sharon owed $20, 000 on the mortgage.
On November 21, 2012, Francis filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. Sharon filed a proof of claim as to the $20, 000 debt. In response, on July 19, 2013, Francis brought an adversary proceeding against Sharon. He did not dispute the debt, but he sought a declaration that the debt was dischargeable pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §§ 523(a)(15) and 1328(a).
After a trial, the Bankruptcy Court entered judgment in favor of Sharon, finding that the debt was a non-dischargeable domestic support obligation under § 523(a)(5). For the reasons set forth below, the order of the Bankruptcy Court will be affirmed.
I. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review
This Court has jurisdiction to hear appeals from final judgments, orders, and decrees of the Bankruptcy Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1). In reviewing the Bankruptcy Court's decision, this Court functions as an appellate court and is authorized to "affirm, modify, or reverse a bankruptcy judge's [order] or remand with instructions for further proceedings." Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8013. The Bankruptcy Court's conclusions of law are reviewed de novo; its findings of fact are reviewed for clear error. See Stornawaye Fin. Corp. v. Hill (In re Hill), 562 F.3d 29, 32 (1st Cir.2009) (citing In re Healthco Int'l, Inc., 132 F.3d 104, 107 (1st Cir.1997)). Mixed questions of law and fact are also reviewed for clear error, "unless the bankruptcy court's analysis was based on a mistaken view of the legal principles involved." In re Carp, 340 F.3d 15, 22 (1st Cir.2003).
A. Factual Background
Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are drawn from the Bankruptcy Court's findings of fact (as stated in open court at the conclusion of the trial) or the joint pretrial statement of the parties. ( See R. at 42, 141-44; Tr. at 78-81).
Francis and Sharon Quinn were married on May 14, 1999. They had no children, and they separated in September or October of 2007. As of the time of their separation, 206*206 they owned a home located at 131 Legate Hill Road in Leominster, Massachusetts. The property was encumbered by two mortgages: a first mortgage in the amount of $450, 000, and a second mortgage in the amount of approximately $90, 000. The lender for the second mortgage was Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Both parties were liable to Wells Fargo on that mortgage as of the date of separation.
In October 2008, Sharon's interest in the Leominster property was conveyed to Francis. However, Sharon remained liable to Wells Fargo on the obligation secured by the second mortgage.
At some point in 2008 or shortly thereafter, Francis stopped making payments on the second mortgage and the loan fell into default. In lieu of foreclosure, the property was sold at a short sale; that ...