In June 2009, a Missouri court entered a decree dissolving the marriage of Sheri Phegley (plaintiff) and John Phegley (defendant). Among other things, the decree ordered John to pay $1,250 per month in maintenance to Sheri for 48 months, though the obligation would terminate earlier if Sheri remarried or either party died. The payments would allow Sheri to pursue a teaching certificate and increase her earning potential, because she was not able to support herself at the time of the divorce. The decree also ordered John to pay a portion of Sheri’s attorney’s fees totaling $9,178.69. In September 2009, John filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Sheri filed a complaint to determine dischargeability of indebtedness, asserting that the award of attorney’s fees and monthly maintenance were domestic support obligations that could not be discharged. John argued that the attorney’s fees and monthly maintenance were a division of marital property that should be discharged in his bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court found that the attorney’s fees and maintenance payments were nondischargeable domestic support obligations. John appealed the bankruptcy court’s decision to the United States Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Eighth Circuit.