2009-CA-000614-MR and 2009-CA-000632-MR
Mom appealed from FC's order in dissolution action, arguing that FC abused its discretion by setting a shared-custody schedule for the children, by imputing income to her, by awarding an inadequate amount of child support and maintenance, and by its division of the parties’ debts. Dad cross-appealed, asserting that the amount and duration of maintenance was excessive.
After seven and a half years of marriage, Mom, a homemaker, filed a Petition for divorce from Dad, a pilot. Subsequently, FC entered temporary orders granting joint custody of their 2 children as well as 50/50 parenting time schedule based around Dad’s work schedule. FC also ordered Dad to pay Children’s expenses and household bills as well as temporary maintenance of $150 per week.
In its final order, FC continued parameters of temporary parenting time order; imputed income to Mom of $2,000 per month in its child support and maintenance calculation; deviated from the child support guidelines based on the shared parenting schedule and determined child support to be $275 per month; awarded Mom maintenance of $2,000 per month for seven years; and ordered Mom to pay the home equity Line of Credit on the marital residence and half of the mortgage payment until the home was sold, as well as be responsible for her personal credit cards.
Due to Dad’s occupation, FC concluded that a rigid parenting schedule would prohibit him from having regular contact with the children. Mom argued that this schedule was unworkable due to Dad’s failure to communicate with her and because Dad’s work schedule changes constantly and with short notice. CA held that FC’s findings that shared parenting schedule was in Children’s best interests was supported by substantial evidence and thus not clearly erroneous.
Imputation of Income
FC imputed income to Mom in child support and maintenance awards based on her work history prior to Children’s births as a graphic designer, in which she earned $28,000 per year, and her current status operating two concierge businesses from her home, in which she was earning $515 per month but hoped to someday earn $4,000 to $8,000 per month.
CA noted that KRS allows a court to base child support on a parent's potential income if it determines that the parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, without finding that the parent intended to avoid or reduce the child support obligation. However, the maintenance statute does not explicitly address imputation of income to a voluntarily underemployed or unemployed spouse. CA held that, as a matter of first impression, maintenance statute implicitly allows FC to impute income to a voluntarily unemployed or underemployed spouse to determine both the spouse’s entitlement to maintenance and the amount and duration of maintenance. Thus, FC committed no error in finding Mom to be capable of earning $2,000 per month and imputing such income to her in its child support and maintenance awards.
Deviation from Child Support Guidelines
CA held that FC justified its deviation from child support guidelines based on the shared-parenting schedule; that the period of time during which children reside with each parent may be considered in determining child support; and a relatively equal division of physical custody may constitute valid grounds for deviating from the guidelines. CA held that FC committed no error.
Amount and duration of a maintenance award are matters within the sound discretion of FC. As noted above, FC was authorized by statute to impute income to Mom. Although CA noted that evidence may have supported Dad’s suggested award of maintenance in declining amounts, such a result was not required. Because of Mom’s long gap in employment history while caring for Children, parties’ comfortable lifestyle during marriage, and Dad’s current earning ability, FC found seven years was reasonable duration for full amount of maintenance, and CA found no error.
Assignment of Debt
FC found that Mom took out the home equity line by forging Dad’s signature on the documents, and that funds were not used for home renovations as Mom testified; FC also found that Mom’s personal credit card debts were non-marital as Mom produced no evidence regarding what items she purchased. CA found no error in finding these debts to be nonmarital. FC also noted Mom’s ability to pay for home equity line with proceeds from sale of marital residence and thus found allocation of this debt to not be manifestly unfair.