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Cureau v. Cureau

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division

March 28, 2017


         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County 13SL-DR07235-01 Honorable Douglas R. Beach

          ROBERT M. CLAYTON III, Presiding Judge

         Alfred Joseph Cureau, Sr. ("Husband") appeals from the trial court's Amended Judgment/Order and Decree of Dissolution ("First Amended Judgment") and Second Amended Judgment/Order and Decree of Dissolution ("Second Amended Judgment"). Husband claims the trial court erred in issues related to division of marital property and maintenance. We affirm as modified pursuant to Rule 84.14.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Evidence Adduced at Trial

         Shirley Jean Cureau ("Wife") filed her petition for dissolution of marriage on December 4, 2013. A bench trial was conducted on June 26, 2015 and August 18, 2015, revealing the following facts.

         Husband and Wife were married on July 17, 1965. Four children were born of the marriage, however, no children remained unemancipated at the time of trial.

         Husband is retired, legally blind, and living in an assisted-living facility. The trial court found Husband was receiving $1, 871 per month from his Central States Pension and $1, 464 per month from Social Security, totaling $3, 335 in monthly income. Husband has monthly expenses of $3, 074 per month. At trial, Husband testified his income exceeded his expenses by $300 per month, and he deposited any excess. The trial court found Wife was also retired, and was receiving $5, 169 per month from her United States Department of Defense pension, $179 per month from Social Security, and $536 per month from her Emerson pension, totaling $5, 884 in monthly income. The court found Wife's income met her reasonable needs.

         Both parties were employed during the marriage and, while Husband was the higher-earning spouse early in the marriage, Wife became the higher-earning spouse later in the marriage, as a thirty-three year employee of the Department of Defense. After Wife retired, she became Husband's full-time caregiver due to his diminished eyesight. For eleven years between Wife's retirement and dissolution of the parties' marriage, Wife cooked for Husband and cleaned and maintained the marital home.

         At the beginning of the parties' marriage, Husband and Wife maintained a joint bank account. However, when Wife began earning more income than Husband approximately thirty-five years prior to trial, Wife withdrew half of the funds in the parties' joint account and opened individual checking and savings accounts at a different bank. Since then, the parties maintained separate financial lives with expenses split between them, although the trial court found no evidence of a binding agreement requiring the parties to split expenses evenly or providing that what the parties earned during the marriage was to be kept separately. The parties slept in separate rooms later in the marriage, and were separated on or about February of 2014.

         The parties had various financial disagreements about expenditures for maintaining and updating the marital home, including the repair or replacement of a garage door opener, lighting, a banister, new doors, carpeting, and furniture. The parties also disagreed about payment of bills related to burial plans. Husband refused to contribute to these expenses and Wife either paid for them herself in cash or by incurring credit card debt.

         Both parties alleged the other committed some form of marital misconduct. Wife made allegations of an incident of Husband's sexual impropriety causing her to file her petition for dissolution. Husband maintained throughout the proceedings that he saved his money earned during the marriage, while Wife wasted marital assets on "many trips to Europe … [and] out-of-town … casinos and [she] visited local casinos on a weekly basis; and [she] expended substantial funds on clothing." The trial court found there was no credible evidence of significant gambling expense attributable to Wife, and ultimately, the trial court specifically concluded neither party engaged in marital misconduct.

         Lastly, Husband sought an award of maintenance, asserting he was permanently disabled and suffered from degenerative health conditions that would require contributions from Wife to meet his future reasonable needs. Husband claimed, alternatively, he would not require maintenance and would be able to meet his future reasonable needs if the trial court awarded him the entirety of his Schwab investment accounts valued at $199, 592. However, if the court chose to award Wife all or some of the Schwab accounts, Husband requested a nominal, modifiable maintenance award in the event his living costs increased or his income declined.

         B. The Trial Court's Judgments

         At the conclusion of the parties' trial on August 18, 2015, the trial court authorized the parties to submit their proposed judgments, which would be due on or about September 17. However, on September 9, prior to the submission of either party's proposed judgments, the trial court entered a Judgment/Order and Decree of Dissolution ("Original Judgment"), which (1) divided the marital property, (2) awarded Wife, as an additional share of marital property, an equalization payment of $124, 033 secured by a lien on ...

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