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Orange v. White

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

November 22, 2016

HAL ORANGE, Appellant,
v.
JEANINE R. WHITE, Respondent,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County Honorable Nancy M. Watkins

          ROY L. RICHTER, JUDGE

         H.O. ("Husband") appeals from the trial court's judgment and decree of dissolution awarding modifiable maintenance to J.W. ("Wife") in the amount of $350 per month. We reverse and remand with instructions.

         I. Background

         Husband and Wife were married on February 14, 2006. The parties had no children during the marriage and separated in December 2013. On March 26, 2014, Husband filed his Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Wife filed her Answer and Counter Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on June 30, 2014.

         From 2005 to 2010, Husband was a school teacher in the Riverview Gardens School System. After being laid off in 2011, Husband worked partially during 2012 and retired later that year. Following his retirement, Husband began receiving social security retirement benefits and benefits from the Public School Retirement System of Missouri.

         Husband receives $1, 844.36 monthly from the Public School Retirement System of Missouri and $1, 547 from his social security retirement benefit for a total gross receipt of $3, 391.36. Considering Husband's 2012 and 2013 tax returns, the court determined that his monthly income was $4, 873.83. While Husband did not provide his income tax returns for 2014, the trial court did hear testimony from Husband and Wife regarding Husband's limited income in 2014 and prospectively.

         Husband received unemployment compensation in 2012 and 2013, however, he stopped receiving unemployment compensation in 2013. Both parties testified that Husband's sole source of income since 2014 has been from his retirement and social security benefits. Despite this testimony, the trial court did not consider any 2014 financial information in its calculation of Husband's monthly income for maintenance purposes.

         Husband is currently behind on his state and federal taxes, medical bills, and several credit card statements. The trial court deducted $500 from his submitted expenses for credit card payments, but did not include outstanding medical bills or state and federal taxes in its calculation of Husband's monthly expenses because the record did not reflect whether the expenses were regular or short term expenses.

         Wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and was deemed permanently disabled by the Social Security Administration. Consequently, she receives $1, 671.90 monthly in social security benefits. Though she performed clerical work for 19 years, nerve damages have made her unable to move her arm or fingers on the right side of her body and has prevented her from finding appropriate employment. Noting her inability to work and upcoming housing expenses, the trial court determined that Wife's monthly expenses totaled $3, 406.16.

         After examining the parties' financial situations, the court determined Wife could not meet her financial needs and that Husband's income enabled him to meet his own needs while also providing assistance to Wife. The court ordered Husband to pay Wife $350 per month as modifiable maintenance. On November 19, 2015, Husband filed his Motion for Reconsideration of Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Partial Judgment and to Hear Additional Evidence and Request for Hearing. His motion was heard and denied. Husband now appeals.

         II. Discussion

         Husband raises three points on appeal. First, Husband claims that the trial court erred in including his social security and teacher's retirement benefits in its calculation of his income because the benefits are nontransferable and unassignable under Section 169.572 (RSMo. 2000)[1]and the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 407 (2000). He further argues the statutes prevent these benefits from being subject to maintenance.

         Second, Husband alleges the trial court erred in awarding maintenance in the amount of $350 per month because the award was unjust, pursuant Section 452.335, and against the weight of the evidence in that the court failed to consider his current income when it only averaged his 2012 and 2013 income in determining the maintenance amount. Husband maintains that the income of those two years is not reflective of his current income and the trial court failed to consider that his expenses now exceed his current income.

         Third, Husband argues the trial court erred in awarding Wife maintenance in the amount of $350 per month because it was unjust, pursuant Section 452.335 and against the weight of the evidence in that Wife is capable of earning sufficient income to meet her reasonable needs and the calculation of her housing expenses was based on conjecture.

         A. Stand ...


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