Important published opinion from Ky Supreme Court today on attributing a portion of children's expenses to maintenance recipient

JUDE WEBER V. THOMAS FRANCIS LAMBE

The trial court awarded maintenance based on its finding that Wife’s reasonable living expenses totaled $5,800 monthly, including $1,440 of the children’s living expenses. Accordingly, Husband was ordered to pay maintenance. Husband was also ordered to pay an additional $15,000 for wife’s attorney fees based on an imbalance in financial resources.

 

Both parties appealed. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred by including the children’s expenses in its calculation of wife’s reasonable living expenses and in failing to make findings justifying its award of nine years of maintenance, but upheld the trial court’s ruling on attorney fees. The Supreme Court granted discretionary review.

 

Wife argues the trial court properly considered the children’s expenses in calculating her maintenance award. The Supreme Court agrees noting KRS 403.200, the Kentucky maintenance statute, permits a trial court to consider “the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party as custodian.” The Supreme Court reverses the Court of Appeals holding the trial court properly reconciled the maintenance and child support statutes in assigning a percentage of the children’s living expenses to Wife.

 

The Court next turns to address duration of the maintenance award, holding that the trial court made sufficient findings of fact to justify the nine year duration of maintenance. The trial court properly considered the length of marriage, Wife’s age, and the medical needs of the parties’ children in addition to other factors. The Supreme Court does not find merit in the Court of Appeal’s dicta which criticized the trial court for its failure to consider the financial positions of the parties in nine years. Thus, the Supreme Court reverses the Court of Appeals holding it improperly asked the trial court to speculate.

 

The Supreme Court affirms the rulings of the Court of Appeals as to the calculation of Husband’s income and the award of attorney fees to Wife holding the trial court properly considered all evidence relating to Husband’s income, and did not abuse its discretion in ordering payment of attorney fees.

 

Digested by Elizabeth M. Howell