The Appellate Court first addresses maintenance, holding that income should not be imputed to a spouse when her underemployment is not voluntary. In this case, the child’s medical needs prevented the mother from working.
The Appellate Court did find error with the Family Court’s conflation of child support and maintenance. The Appellate Court held maintenance is for the reasonable needs of a spouse. Expenses for children do not come within a spouse’s reasonable needs, as the children’s expenses are already included in the court’s child support calculation. Including children’s expenses in maintenance is inappropriate as it would ultimately require the obligor to pay all of the children’s expenses.
The Appellate Court also held that the nine year duration of maintenance was not adequately supported by the lower court’s findings when the marriage was 20 years long, the wife was only 48 years old, the wife had a bachelor’s degree, and expert witnesses found the wife to be employable. The Appellate Court remanded the maintenance decision for recalculating the amount and for additional findings supporting the duration.
The Appellate Court then dealt with a slew of other issues, upholding all lower court decisions. They found no error with the court’s consideration of gross vs. net income in setting maintenance, the consideration of gross income in setting child support, and the court’s use of a stock valuation from an expert witness. They held that the lower court had broad authority in assigning attorney fees and did not make an error assigning a portion of wife’s attorney’s fees to husband where the husband was high earning, the wife was unable to seek full time employment, and the court awarded only half the total amount of wife’s attorney’s fees.
The Appellate Court also upheld the lower court’s consideration of future and past earnings in calculating income; and upheld the decision to assign all the residential expenses to the wife, when the obligations were considered in calculating her expenses to determine maintenance. Finally, the Appellate Court affirmed the lower court’s refusal to modify maintenance, as the husband showed no change of circumstances to justify a modification.