ARNOLD, Circuit Judge.
In 1980 Edward and Joyce Williams obtained a dissolution of marriage in the Circuit Court of Stone County, Missouri. The final decree incorporated the parties' agreement about financial and property matters, providing that Edward would pay (1) certain joint debts owed to banks, finance companies, and department stores, (2) the sum of $15,000 in $300 monthly installments to Joyce, and (3) $750 for Joyce's attorney's fee. Less than three months later, Edward filed a petition under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code and listed as debts his financial obligations to Joyce. Joyce filed objections, arguing that the obligations were for support and maintenance and therefore nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(5) (Supp. V 1981). The Bankruptcy Judge
The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 prohibits the discharge of a debtor's obligation to make alimony, maintenance, or support payments to his or her former spouse. 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(5) (Supp. V 1981). Whether a particular debt is a support obligation or part of a property settlement is a question of federal bankruptcy law, not state law. H.R.Rep. No. 595, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 364, reprinted in 1978 U.S.
The Bankruptcy Court's finding of fact that the duties created by the divorce decree were support obligations is not clearly erroneous. The parties' joint debts, which Edward undertook to pay and on which he undertook to hold Joyce harmless, were incurred to purchase farm equipment, furniture, clothing, appliances, and the like. "[P]rovisions to pay expenditures for the necessities and ordinary staples of everyday life" may reflect a support function. In re Jensen, supra, at 540 (citing Poolman v. Poolman, supra). Similarly, there is substantial evidence indicating that the so-called "property settlement" and agreement to pay Joyce's attorney's fees were intended as support. Joyce presented evidence that she is in poor health, has not worked since 1975, and that her living expenses are $1,100 per month, while her income, from Social Security and other sources, is only about $600 per month. The Bankruptcy Judge could reasonably find that the financial transfers prescribed by the divorce decree were intended to help Joyce meet her monthly living expenses. The label "property settlement" seems to have been used in the divorce decree in order to insulate the $15,000 obligation from modification in the future under the state domestic-relations law doctrine that support obligations may be changed if the parties' circumstances change.
Edward argues that his debt to Joyce's attorney
Finally, Edward's argument that Joyce failed to make a timely objection to the discharge of the debt for attorney's fees is without merit. This debt is mentioned specifically in paragraph five of Joyce's "First Amended Objections to Dischargeability of Debt." Designated Record at 19.
In short, undertakings by one spouse to pay the other's debts, including a debt to a lawyer for fees, can be "support" for bankruptcy purposes. So can periodic payments required to be made to a former spouse, even if the decree labels these payments a "property settlement." Whether in any given case such obligations are in fact for "support" and therefore not dischargeable in bankruptcy, is a question of fact to be