U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Gerald Fines of Danville will decide whether attorney Gary Peel’s bankruptcy petition relieves him of obligations to former wife Deborah J. Peel.
Fines will hold trial Feb. 3, at U. S. Bankruptcy Court in East St. Louis.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kenneth Meyers, who had handled the case for four months, said at a Nov. 16 hearing that Fines would take the case as a visiting judge.
Gary Peel and Deborah J. Peel divorced in 2003, in St. Clair County Family Court. They signed a divorce settlement that required payments from him to her.
But last year, Gary Peel, an attorney with the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, stopped making payments. Deborah J. Peel moved the family court to hold him in contempt. The motion did not come to a hearing.
This July, Gary Peel filed a bankruptcy petition. It automatically stayed the claims of all creditors, including his former wife.
Deborah J. Peel moved in September to lift the stay on her claims. Her attorney, Donald Urban, argued that bankruptcy does not relieve obligations for support or maintenance under a divorce decree.
Gary Peel’s attorney, Steven Stanton, responded that the settlement provided neither maintenance nor support. He defined it as a division of property, subject to the court’s stay like the claims of other creditors.
At the Nov. 16 hearing, Meyers asked if the state court would hear Deborah J. Peel’s contempt motion before the first of February.
Stanton said he had tried since August to bring it to a hearing.
“So what are you worried about?” Meyers asked.
Stanton said, “What can a state court offer on this? What expertise can they offer?”
“A lot more,” Meyers replied.
Stanton said the nature of obligations in bankruptcy is always up to the U.S.
Stating he had confidence in the state court, Meyers said he would deny Deborah J. Peel’s motion to lift the stay.
But, he warned Stanton not to protract anything.
“If I get any sense that there is any attempt to delay this matter,” Meyers said, “it won’t take me long to change my ruling.”