Age v. Age, Ky COA, Validity of Marriage, CR60, Maintenance, Attorney Fees

Journal Categories

Age v. Age, No. 2009-CA-001982-MR

and

Reid (formerly Age) v. Age, et al, No. 2009-CA-002173-MR

Published:  Affirming

County:     Oldham

 

        Reid filed a petition for dissolution of a 33-year marriage in November, 2006.  After entry of the decree in June, 2008 the parties filed a settlement agreement which had been executed in April, 2008.

 

        More than a year after the decree was entered, Age filed a motion to set aside the decree based on Reid’s statements in obtaining a theological annulment by the Roman Catholic Church.  That motion was denied.  In August, 2009, Age filed a CR 60.02 motion to set aside the judgment on the grounds of mistake, fraud, and new evidence.  On September 3, 2009 the TC entered an order denying the post-judgment motion and also denied Age’s subsequent motion to reconsider.

 

        Reid’s cross-appealed on the issues of maintenance and attorney fees.  Reid never earned more than $7,000 annually, while Age earned $188,000 in 2008.  She contended that after consideration of the relevant statutory criteria, the court’s award of maintenance was inadequate.  She further maintained that the court should have made findings before ordering her to pay additional fees to her attorney and also when the TC denied reimbursement by Age to Reid of these attorney fees, which she claimed was an abuse of discretion.

 

        By agreed order, temporary maintenance was set at $750.00 per month.  Under the terms of their settlement agreement, Reid waived maintenance but negotiated for one-half of Age’s pension payment which she expected would be approximately $2,300 per month.  In an addendum to the April, 2008 agreement, Age agreed to pay Reid $2,300 per month until she began to receive pension payments from Abbot Laboratories pension administrator.  The court ordered the parties to enter into a QDRO to facilitate Reid’s receipt of pension benefits. 

 

        At a hearing in January, 2009 it was discovered that Reid’s pension benefits would only be $953.74 per month.  This gave rise to continued dispute about the issue of spousal support.

 

        On October 22, 2009, TC entered an order finding the settlement agreement unconscionable because of the waiver of spousal support and the pension benefit insufficient to meet the minimum needs.  TC awarded maintenance until Age’s retirement when Reid will be entitled to one-half Age’s pension.

 

        Reid’s former counsel filed an attorney’s lien for unpaid fees and TC ordered Reid to pay the fees in installments.  TC denied Reid reimbursement of any fees from Age based upon her assertion that his post-judgment motion was frivolous and vexatious.

 

        Regarding the validity of the divorce decree, the CA found no evidence to suggest the parties were not lawfully married.  The Catholic Church’s determination under ecclesiastical law does not alter the legal effort of a civil marriage.  None of the reasons to invalidate a marriage as set out in KRS 403.120 applied in this case.

 

        CA held that Age’s CR 60.02 motion was not timely filed, there was no evidence of civil fraud and the Constitution prohibits an interface between church and state law.

 

        Reid claimed the TC abused its discretion when it set maintenance at $2,300 per month to be reduced when Reid’s pension benefits commenced.  The CA found that the TC made relevant findings and used the factors enumerated in the statute to determine the maintenance award.

 

        The CA reviewed Reid’s appeal of the issue of reimbursement of attorney fees despite procedural infirmities regarding the notice of appeal.  Holding that a TC’s decision regarding KRS 403.220 may only be overturned if an abuse of discretion occurred, the CA found no indication the TC’s ruling was arbitrary, unreasonable, unfair, or unsupported by sound legal principles.  To Reid’s contention that the TC failed to make adequate findings, the CA disagreed and found that the trial judge exhaustively covered the division of assets and did not omit any findings essential to its judgment.

 

Digested by Sandra G. Ragland, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates

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