Plaintiff filed for divorce, after a marriage of almost 33 years. Defendant was employed as a gas mechanic. Plaintiff previously worked part time for school districts for approximately 11 years, cut hair for several years, and worked as a nurse's assistant. However, plaintiff stopped working because of health issues, principally back problems that required two surgeries and an implant in her back. Plaintiff was approved for Social Security disability benefits.
The trial court awarded plaintiff $2,000 a month in spousal support, to continue until defendant reaches age 65, or until plaintiff's death, remarriage, or cohabitation, whichever occurs first. The trial court awarded defendant the marital home, which it valued at $105,000, but required defendant to pay plaintiff 50% of the equity value of the home ($37,500).
Defendant appealed and plaintiff filed a cross-appeal. Defendant argued that the trial court erred in refusing to impute income to plaintiff in determining support. Plaintiff claimed that the trial court erred in not making the support award permanent.
The object in awarding spousal support is to balance the incomes and needs of the parties so that neither will be impoverished, and spousal support is to be based on what is just and reasonable under the circumstances of the case. Whether to award spousal support is in the trial court's discretion.
The record supported the plaintiff's limited ability to work and to find employment. The evidence showed that she had health problems. The Social Security Administration determined that she was disabled, and she was receiving Social Security disability benefits. Also, she was over 50 years old, only had a high school diploma and had been out of the workforce for a number of years, and has minimal marketable skills.
The award was based on his current income level, which included compensation for overtime. The evidence showed that defendant had regularly worked overtime for the past several years, during which time defendant's total income had risen and given the nature of defendant's job, his continued ability to work overtime was not likely to be affected by his age.
The trial court also discussed at length the temporary nature of the spousal support award as well as facts relating to defendant's pension. Plaintiff would be able to choose when to begin taking her share of defendant's pension. The trial court also recognized that the parties' circumstances were likely to change, depending on when defendant retires and when the parties began to draw benefits. Both parties are free to ask for modification of the spousal support upon new facts or changed circumstances, even after defendant turns 65.
In sum, the court held that the trial court's spousal support award to the plaintiff-wife was based on appropriate considerations, its factual findings were not clearly erroneous, and it did not err in refusing to make the support permanent.
If you are served with divorce papers, contact an experienced divorce attorney right away. It is important that you find an attorney who has the skills and experience you need to address all issues that may arise during your divorce, including property division, child custody and parenting time, child and spousal support.