Woodson v. Woodson, Ky Supreme Court, Modification of Lump-Sum Maintenance, overruling Dame

Woodson v. Woodson

2010-SC-000053-DG

Published:  Reversing and Remanding

County: Jefferson

Overruling Dame v. Dame, SC held that “a maintenance award in a fixed amount to be paid out over a definite period of time is subject to modification under KRS 403 .250(1).” 

KRS 403 .250(1) states in part:

"Except as otherwise provided in subsection (6) of KRS 403 .180, the provisions of any decree respecting maintenance may be modified only upon a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unconscionable." (Emphasis added.)

In giving the statute its obvious meaning, all decrees ‘respecting maintenance’ are modifiable under certain circumstances. This is precisely the point that was made by Justice Clayton in his dissent in Dame.

"In saying farewell to Dame, we do not belittle the compelling need for finality in all divorce cases. The burden of proof to change maintenance orders is sufficiently strict to insure relative stability and finality. It requires the showing of ‘changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unconscionable.’ KRS 403.250(1). However, the statute does not divest trial judges of the discretion to decide when modification outweighs the virtue of finality in seeking fairness and equity in what many times may be dire consequences and complicated options.”

Digested by Michelle Eisenmenger Mapes, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates