Judge to decide if Peel can be relieved of paying former wife

Steve Korris Oct. 20, 2005, 12:11pm

Gary Peel

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kenneth Meyers of East St. Louis has set a Nov. 16 trial to decide if the bankruptcy petition of attorney Gary Peel should relieve him from paying what he owes to former wife Deborah J. Peel.

Gary Peel, a class action attorney with The Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, aims to convince Judge Meyers that he, his current wife and his law practice need money more than his former wife and their children.

“Discharging Debtor’s obligations under the Marital Settlement Agreement would result in a benefit to the Debtor that would outweigh the detrimental consequences to Debtor’s children or ex-spouse,” his attorney, Steven Stanton, wrote to the court in August.

Peel filed a voluntary bankruptcy petition July 22. The petition automatically stayed all claims of his creditors.

He filed an adversarial complaint in bankruptcy court against Deborah J. Peel on Aug. 8, stating that he lacked the ability to meet his obligations under the divorce agreement after meeting necessary expenses for himself, his “dependent,” and his business.

A bankruptcy court cannot block alimony, maintenance or child support, but Stanton argued that the divorce agreement did not fit those categories.

Deborah J. Peel moved Sept. 9 to dismiss the adversarial complaint. Her attorney, Donald Urban, wrote that Gary Peel had the ability to meet his obligations to her.

Deborah J. Peel moved Sept. 15 to lift the stay on her claims.

On Oct. 10, Stanton filed a 47-page memorandum opposing the motion to dismiss. Judge Meyers struck it, citing the court’s limit of 20 pages.

Stanton boiled it down to 20 pages and filed it Oct. 18. He argued that the divorce agreement was a division of property.

“The line between ‘equalization of property rights’ and ‘support’ is not easy to draw,” Stanton wrote. In this case, he wrote, neither party needed maintenance or support.

"Debtor’s financial circumstances deteriorated dramatically after he executed the marital settlement agreement,” he wrote.

Peel had moved last year to vacate his 2003 settlement with ex-wife Deborah J. Peel in St. Clair County, alleging that she fraudulently induced him to sign it.

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