Adams v. Adams, WD 61491.

Citation108 S.W.3d 821
Decision Date01 July 2003
Docket NumberNo. WD 61531.,No. WD 61491.,WD 61491.,WD 61531.
PartiesC. David ADAMS, Appellant-Respondent, v. Janet D. ADAMS, Respondent-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)

Monica D. Hutchinson, Warrensburg, MO, for Appellant.

Donald Lee Davis, Kansas City, MO, for Respondent.

Before HAROLD L. LOWENSTEIN, P.J., JAMES M. SMART, JR., and EDWIN H. SMITH, JJ.

JAMES M. SMART, JR., Judge.

Charles Adams ("Husband") appeals the trial court's judgment dissolving his marriage to Janet Adams ("Wife") as to maintenance, child support, and attorneys' fees. In a cross-appeal, Wife appeals the trial court's judgment as to division of marital property and attorneys' fees. We affirm in part and reverse in part. The parties' points related to the attorney's fee award are affirmed pursuant to Rule 84.16(b).1

Statement of Facts

The parties were married on September 12, 1980. Sixteen years later, on September 18, 1996, one child was born of the marriage, Jennifer Nicole Adams. The parties separated on or about March 15, 2001, and Husband filed his petition for dissolution of marriage on April 6, 2001. Wife filed an answer and cross-petition for dissolution, alleging, inter alia, that she required maintenance because she is unable to work due to a medical condition.

Wife had suffered severe injuries in 1996 during the birth of Jennifer, which resulted in her medical disabilities of fecal incontinence, depression, and backache. Wife did not return to work after Jennifer's birth because of these medical conditions, and the disability has, she said, rendered her unable to maintain gainful employment since that time. At the time of trial, Wife was receiving $798.00 a month from Social Security for herself and $398.00 a month for Jennifer. The Social Security benefits were granted for Jennifer because of Wife's disability.

At trial, Dr. M.K. Shridharani testified in behalf of Husband that, based on his examination of Wife and after review of her medical records, he believed that Wife's fecal incontinence was mild. The doctor opined that there were two options available to correct her problem with fecal incontinence: sphincteroplasty (an attempt to repair her sphincter muscle) and a colostomy.

Vocational rehabilitation consultant Terry Cordray testified (also in behalf of Husband) that, although he did not examine Wife personally, he was able to reach a conclusion about her ability to work based on depositions, medical records, job postings, and various treatises and resources used in his profession. Mr. Cordray determined that Wife was capable of engaging in "competitive employment" at the sedentary to light level in an entry-level job for forty hours per week.

Bud Langston, a vocational rehabilitation specialist who testified for Wife, voiced the opinion that Wife could not return to work on a regular basis due to her disabilities, especially the fecal incontinence. Wife testified extensively with regard to her medical problems and the treatments she has undergone since being injured in 1996. Wife testified that she is unable to work due to her disabilities. She testified that she had already undergone surgery to repair her sphincter muscle and that it had not alleviated her fecal incontinence. She stated that the surgery had made her condition worse in some respects. Wife testified that a colostomy, a very extreme procedure, was "not an option" for her. Husband expressed the opinion that Wife could work at least part time to supplement her income from Social Security and that if she did so, she could earn approximately $749.00 per month. That, in addition to her disability benefits, he said, would bring her monthly income up to $1,547.00, not including Jennifer's Social Security or child support.

The parties both presented income and expense statements to the court. Wife's statement showed that her monthly expenses for both her and Jennifer totaled $2,236.00. Wife stated her net income as $1,196.00, which was the combination of her disability benefit of $798.00 and Jennifer's benefit of $398.00. Husband's income and expense statement showed his net monthly income as $3,486.40, and his monthly expenses for both him and Jennifer totaled $2,962.57.

Both parties also presented their own Form 14's showing their calculations for child support. The trial court rejected both parties' Form 14's and submitted its own. The trial court's Form 14 showed Wife's monthly gross income and adjusted gross income as $798.00, the amount of her Social Security disability benefit, and Husband's monthly gross income and adjusted gross income as 83,486.00. Based on these figures, the court arrived at a presumed child support amount of 8421.00 to be paid by Husband. The court made no provision for the Social Security benefit received on behalf of Jennifer, nor did it include any adjustment for maintenance payments.

The court, in its judgment of May 24, 2002, found that the best interests of the child would best be served by placing her in the joint legal and physical custody of both parties. The court's parenting plan closely followed the plan submitted by Husband and is not challenged on appeal. The court adopted its own Form 14 as correct, stating that it found no reason to deviate from those calculations, and ordered Husband to pay $421.00 per month for child support.

In dividing the marital property and debts between the spouses, the court granted the family home to Husband and included $10,774.00 cash in Wife's portion of the property division. The court found that the value of the family home was $72,500.00 and that Husband should retain the property and assume the debt on it, which amounted to $61,628.00. The court found that the marital portion of Husband's military pension, which was not yet fully vested at the time of trial, should be divided equally between the parties. The pension division is not contested on appeal. With regard to debts, the court found that certain debts, which were incurred by Wife after separation, were "squandered" and should be paid by her. The debts that were found by the court to be marital and joint were divided between the parties.

The court found that Wife was in need of maintenance and that Husband was capable of paying $283.00 per month as and for maintenance. The order of maintenance was based on the court's findings (1) that Wife lacks sufficient property to provide for her reasonable needs; (2) that Wife suffers from a medical condition such that she is unable to support herself through appropriate employment; (3) that Wife has reasonable need for herself and the parties' child in the amount of $1,900.00 per month; (4) that Wife has a monthly income of $1,617.00, which consists of $798.00 in Social Security benefits for herself, $398.00 in Social Security benefits for Jennifer, and child support from Husband in the amount of $421.00; and (5) that Husband is capable of meeting his own needs while providing $283.00 per month in maintenance to Wife.

Finally, the court ordered Husband to pay $5,000.00 of Wife's attorneys' fees (which totaled over $16,000.00).

This appeal follows.

Standard of Review

The appellate court will affirm a judgment of dissolution unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or erroneously applies the law. Thomas v. Thomas, 76 S.W.3d 295, 299 (Mo.App.2002) (citing Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976)). The burden of demonstrating error falls on the party challenging the dissolution decree. Childers v. Childers, 26 S.W.3d 851, 853 (Mo.App.2000). This court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the decree, disregarding contrary evidence and deferring to the trial court even if the evidence could support a different conclusion. Carter v. Carter, 869 S.W.2d 822, 830 (Mo.App.1994).

Maintenance

In his first point, Husband contends that the trial court erred in awarding maintenance because the greater weight of the evidence showed that Wife is capable of at least part-time employment, that part-time income in the amount of $749.00 should have been imputed to her, and that that income coupled with her Social Security benefits would provide for her reasonable needs, and because Husband lacks the ability to pay the award of maintenance.

In a dissolution proceeding, a court may grant an order of maintenance only after finding, pursuant to Section 452.335.1, RSMo 2000,2 that the spouse seeking maintenance: (1) lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him, to provide for his reasonable needs; and (2) is unable to support himself through appropriate employment. McIntosh v. McIntosh, 41 S.W.3d 60, 67 (Mo. App.2001). Once this two-part threshold test is met, the court then determines the amount and duration of maintenance after considering all relevant factors, including those specified in Section 452.335.2. Hatchette v. Hatchette, 57 S.W.3d 884, 891-92 (Mo.App.2001).

Here, the trial court found that Wife was entitled to maintenance because she met the two-part threshold test. The court specifically found that Wife lacks sufficient property to provide for her reasonable needs and that Wife suffers from a medical condition such that she is unable to support herself through appropriate employment. The court found that Wife has reasonable needs for herself and the parties' child in the amount of $1,900.00 per month; that Wife has a monthly income of $1,617.00, which consists of $798.00 in Social Security benefits for herself, $398.00 in Social Security benefits for Jennifer, and child support from Husband in the amount of $421.00; and that Husband is capable of meeting his own needs while providing $283.00 per month in maintenance.

Husband concedes that there is no question that, at the time of trial, Wife lacked sufficient property to provide for her needs. However, Husband contends that the greater weight of the...

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  • Buchholz v. Buchholz
    • United States
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1 books & journal articles
  • Disability and Family Relationships: Marriage Penalties and Support Anomalies
    • United States
    • Georgia State University College of Law Georgia State Law Reviews No. 22-3, March 2006
    • Invalid date
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