Monday, February 26, 2007

Case Law Development: The Costs of Divorce

The Missouri Court of Appeals decided a case involving a divorce from a 27-year marriage in which maintenance, division of property and attorneys fees were disputed.  The court affirmed the trial court's decision to award maintenance to wife, who had been a homemaker for most of the marriage and who had health problems and few job skills, and to award her a portion of the husband's retirement account, as well as the decision to award attorneys fees. 

That the trial court's decisions were upheld is not particularly surprising given the high degree of deference given to trial courts on these issues and the fact that Missouri allows marital fault to impact these decisions. 

What is striking about the case from a teaching perspective are the numbers:

Wife stayed at home for most of the marriage and never had earned more than $2000 a year. 
At the time of trial, Husband had a monthly income of $3900, working as a machinest.

The couple had arrived at a settlement agreement and divided most of their marital property and debts.  After the trial court divided the retirement account, the total property Wife received under the judgment was $9908. The total value of the property awarded to Husband, less the marital debt, came to $14,341. The trial court ordered Husband to pay modifiable maintenance to Wife in the amount of $550 per month.

Each party incurred about $3000 in attorneys fees for the dissolution action. For the appeal, Wife was awarded $6000 attorneys fees for her representation on appeal; Husband paid $18,000 for his representation on appeal.

Russum v. Russum, February 20, 2007
Opinion on the web (last visited February 26, 2007 bgf)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2007/02/case_law_develo_7.html

Attorneys, Maintenance (alimony), Property Division | Permalink

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