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The Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err by denying the defendant-ex-wife's motion for spousal support on the ground that it was premature according to the terms of the parties' consent JOD.

The parties entered into a consent JOD that covered custody and property division. It also reserved the issue of spousal support "until the expiration of four years from the date of entry of this Judgment of Divorce." Defendant later moved for spousal support claiming her circumstances had changed dramatically. The trial court agreed there had a been a substantial change in circumstances, but denied her motion on the ground that it lacked the authority to consider an award of spousal support prior to expiration of the four-year period subsequent to entry of the JOD. On appeal, the court found that the trial court properly interpreted the spousal support reservation clause in the JOD to preclude consideration of a petition for spousal support during the four years following entry of the judgment. It noted the meaning of the clause is that "the trial court will 'defer' (or continue to defer) or 'hold back' its decision on the matter of spousal support 'to' (the specified time of) four years after the date of entry of the parties' JOD. In other words, an award of spousal support is not available until after expiration of the four-year period following entry of the JOD. As the second sentence of the paragraph indicates, the trial court may award spousal support to whichever party is able to show a substantial change in circumstances after expiration of the four-year period. 'Thereafter' refers to after the four-year period, and 'if no spousal support is ordered' clearly suggests its alternative, which is that the trial court may award spousal support after expiration of that period." The court acknowledged that the second sentence is "somewhat vague as written because it does not indicate for how long after expiration of the four years the parties may file a petition for spousal support." However, "both plaintiff and defendant testified at the hearing on defendant's motion for spousal support that, at the time they entered into the consent judgment, each contemplated that the substantial change in circumstances would be something that had occurred during the four-year period."The parties entered into a consent JOD that covered custody and property division. It also reserved the issue of spousal support "until the expiration of four years from the date of entry of this Judgment of Divorce." Defendant later moved for spousal support claiming her circumstances had changed dramatically. The trial court agreed there had a been a substantial change in circumstances, but denied her motion on the ground that it lacked the authority to consider an award of spousal support prior to expiration of the four-year period subsequent to entry of the JOD. On appeal, the court found that the trial court properly interpreted the spousal support reservation clause in the JOD to preclude consideration of a petition for spousal support during the four years following entry of the judgment. It noted the meaning of the clause is that "the trial court will 'defer' (or continue to defer) or 'hold back' its decision on the matter of spousal support 'to' (the specified time of) four years after the date of entry of the parties' JOD. In other words, an award of spousal support is not available until after expiration of the four-year period following entry of the JOD. As the second sentence of the paragraph indicates, the trial court may award spousal support to whichever party is able to show a substantial change in circumstances after expiration of the four-year period. 'Thereafter' refers to after the four-year period, and 'if no spousal support is ordered' clearly suggests its alternative, which is that the trial court may award spousal support after expiration of that period." The court acknowledged that the second sentence is "somewhat vague as written because it does not indicate for how long after expiration of the four years the parties may file a petition for spousal support." However, "both plaintiff and defendant testified at the hearing on defendant's motion for spousal support that, at the time they entered into the consent judgment, each contemplated that the substantial change in circumstances would be something that had occurred during the four-year period."

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