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Award of stepped alimony designed to enable ex-wife to return to the workforce properly awarded

The court held that the trial court's amount and term of spousal support was not an abuse of discretion, and it did not err in modifying the child support order on remand. The parties divorced and the trial court ordered the plaintiff-husband to pay spousal and child support. On appeal, the court remanded, directing the trial court clarify its ruling. On remand, the trial court again order spousal and child support, noting it based its determination on the defendant-wife's expectation that she will complete training as an occupational therapist during the first three years and thereafter obtain employment in that field. Plaintiff moved for reconsideration. In lieu of further appeal, the court considered his motion a supplemental brief. It then rejected defendant's argument that the trial court's opinion and amended judgment exceeded the scope of its remand order. First, it found that, although "the trial court's language was somewhat harsh, its criticism of defendant's views as to what constituted a livable income and a reasonable amount of support was not inconsistent with the evidence." Further, "the trial court did not clearly err in its finding that plaintiff had been using his salary and bonus to reduce marital debt throughout the divorce proceedings." Lastly, "the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding stepped alimony designed to enable defendant to return to the workforce." She "testified that she could work and planned to obtain employment as an occupational therapist after completing the appropriate education. And, between the ordered child support, her limited earnings, and the ordered spousal support, her household income would remain at approximately its present level, until such time as she presumably qualifies for, and obtains, professional employment. In addition, if defendant is ultimately unable to obtain employment as an occupational therapist or if other changes in circumstances occur, she may, as the trial court noted, seek a modification of the support amount and term." The court also held that the trial court's allowing the referee to make child support was not an improper delegation of authority, and the child support award was not erroneous. Affirmed.

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