In re Marriage of Doyle, SD37320

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtWILLIAM W. FRANCIS, JR., P.J.
PartiesIn Re the Marriage of: LAWRENCE G. DOYLE and CYNTHIA DOYLE v. CYNTHIA DOYLE, Respondent/Respondent. LAWRENCE G. DOYLE, Petitioner/Appellant,
Docket NumberSD37320
Decision Date23 June 2022

In Re the Marriage of: LAWRENCE G. DOYLE and CYNTHIA DOYLE

LAWRENCE G. DOYLE, Petitioner/Appellant,
v.

CYNTHIA DOYLE, Respondent/Respondent.

No. SD37320

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division

June 23, 2022


APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF STONE COUNTY Honorable Mark A. Stephens, Judge

WILLIAM W. FRANCIS, JR., P.J.

Lawrence G. Doyle ("Husband") appeals from the judgment of the trial court dissolving his marriage to Cynthia Doyle ("Wife").[1] The trial court divided the parties' marital property, allocated their debts, and awarded Wife $750 per month non-modifiable maintenance. In two points on appeal, Husband asserts the trial court erred by awarding maintenance to Wife at all

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(Point I) and, if she was entitled to maintenance, the amount awarded was not correct (Point II). After considering Point I, we vacate the maintenance award, but remand the case to the trial court to receive additional evidence on the issue of maintenance.

Factual and Procedural Background

Viewed in the light most favorable to the judgment, In re Marriage of Schubert, 561 S.W.3d 787, 791 (Mo.App. S.D. 2018), the following facts relevant to maintenance were adduced at trial.

The parties were married on February 24, 1995. On February 28, 2020, Husband filed a "Petition for Dissolution of the Marriage." Four children were born of the marriage. Three of the children were emancipated at the time the petition was filed. One child, E.D., was 16 years old at the time and resided with Wife.

Wife's "Counter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" asked that the trial court award her maintenance. Wife filed an Income and Expense Statement setting forth a gross monthly salary of $2,000, with a net take-home pay, after deductions, of $1,808. Wife listed her monthly expenses as: Rent - $650; Utilities - $260; auto expense (including loan payment on her 2009 Chevrolet Malibu) - $315; auto insurance - $265; food for herself - $250; food for E.D. - $200; clothing for herself - $50; clothing for E.D. - $50; recreation for herself - $50; and recreation for E.D. - $25. Wife's average monthly expenses totaled $2,115.

At trial, Wife gave the following testimony relevant to maintenance. She and Husband had been married 25 years, and Husband was in the military for 15 of those years. They had four children, so Wife was a stay-at-home mom. She did not re-enter the work force until September 2016. She obtained a "certificate in early child development" and was employed at Preferred Family Healthcare as a coordinator with the Southwestern Missouri Autism Program. Her net

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income was approximately $864 every two weeks. Once the divorce was final, she would have to pay her own health insurance. Her fixed monthly expenses of approximately $2,200 were "based upon frugality[,]" and "[t]here was no room in [her] budget for anything beyond the basics." Her gross monthly income was approximately $2,000, which was much less than Husband's income. Wife's income left no extra money for car repairs, dental bills, or a large utility bill. She did not have the means to save money to buy a replacement automobile. Once the divorce was final, however, she would start receiving $472.32 per month as her marital share of Husband's military retirement pay.

Husband gave the following trial testimony relevant to maintenance. He was employed at the Department of Veterans Affairs at the Springfield Outpatient Clinic as a Medical Support Assistant. He also received disability compensation from the Veteran's Administration and military retirement pay from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. His net monthly income was $5,216.39. His average monthly expenses were $2,975.96, which included Wife's $472.32 share of Husband's military retirement benefit that would begin once the dissolution was final.

On August 20, 2021, the trial court entered its judgment, which included findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court made the following findings relevant to the maintenance issue:

1. Wife's net monthly income was $1,808
2. She was awarded an additional $472.32 per month as the spousal share of Husband's military retirement benefit.
3. Wife was awarded $17,000 as an equalization payment in the property distribution.
4. Wife's monthly expenses totaled $1,850. This was "a bare stark budget[.]" Wife had no extra funds for "car repairs, dental, medical, vision, emergencies, gifts, car payments, retirement or savings[.]"[2]
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In relevant part, the trial court also made the following conclusions of law with respect to maintenance:

1. During the marriage, the combined incomes of Husband and Wife totaled approximately $8,000 per month. They "had three cars, a boat, and a home valued at about $300,000; [Husband] contributed to a 401(k); a very different lifestyle than that of [Wife] currently."
2. The marriage had lasted 25 years.
3. The
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