Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County 15SL-DR02510
Honorable Mary B. Schroeder
M. CLAYTON III, JUDGE
Sulkin ("Husband") appeals from the trial
court's judgment ordering him to pay Laura Sulkin
("Wife") $5, 000 per month in maintenance. We
reverse and remand.
and Wife were married on June 22, 1994. Two children were
born of the marriage and remained unemancipated at the time
of trial. Wife filed her petition for dissolution of
marriage on April 23, 2015; Husband answered and filed a
cross-petition for dissolution on June 8, 2015. Wife then
filed her amended petition for dissolution of marriage on
August 5, 2016. On November 2, 2016, following a three-day
bench trial, the trial court issued a judgment of dissolution
Husband filed a post-trial motion to set aside, amend, or
clarify the judgment, or alternatively, a motion for new
trial asserting, inter alia, the trial court erred
in ordering him to pay Wife $5, 000 per month in maintenance.
The trial court heard arguments related to Husband's
post-trial motion and took the matter under submission on
January 9, 2017. On January 23, 2017, the trial court entered
its Amended Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage
("Judgment"). In relevant part, the Judgment found
Wife's reasonable expenses to be $5, 000 per month,
imputed potential employment income to Wife in the amount of
$2, 667 per month, and ordered Husband to pay Wife $5, 000
per month in maintenance. Husband appeals.
Husband's sole point on appeal, he argues the trial court
erred in ordering him to pay Wife $5, 000 per month in
maintenance. We agree.
Standard of Review and General Law Related to
any court-tried case, our review of a dissolution of marriage
action is guided by the standards set forth in Murphy v.
Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). Alabach
v. Alabach, 478 S.W.3d 511, 513 (Mo. App. E.D. 2015).
Accordingly, a dissolution judgment will be affirmed unless
it is not supported by substantial evidence, it is against
the weight of the evidence, it erroneously declares the law,
or it erroneously applies the law. Id. The trial
court resolves matters such as the weight of evidence, the
resolution of conflicting evidence, and witness credibility,
and its rulings on these issues will not be reviewed by this
Court. L.R.S. v. C.A.S., 525 S.W.3d 172, 183 (Mo.
App. E.D. 2017). Additionally, when the trial court has made
no specific findings on a factual issue, such findings are
interpreted as having been found in accordance with the trial
court's judgment. Ivie v. Smith, 439 S.W.3d 189,
200 (Mo. banc 2014); Missouri Supreme Court Rule 73.01(c)
trial court is vested with broad discretion in awarding
maintenance. Coleman v. Coleman, 318 S.W.3d 715, 719
(Mo. App. E.D. 2010); Woodard v. Woodard, 201 S.W.3d
557, 561 (Mo. App. E.D. 2006). Thus, our Court will not
reverse the court's decision absent an abuse of
discretion, and we defer to the trial court even where the
evidence could have supported a different conclusion.
Woodard, 201 S.W.3d at 561. "The trial court
abuses its discretion only when its ruling is clearly against
the logic of the circumstances and is so arbitrary and
unreasonable as to shock one's sense of justice and
indicate a lack of careful consideration."
Coleman, 318 S.W.3d at 720 (quotations omitted).
trial court may award maintenance only upon finding the
spouse seeking maintenance, (1) lacks sufficient property,
including marital property apportioned to her, to provide for
her reasonable needs; and (2) is unable to support herself
through appropriate employment. Section 452.335.1 RSMo
2000; Valentine v. Valentine, 400
S.W.3d 14, 20-21 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013). In applying this
two-part standard, the trial court is first required to
determine the reasonable needs of the spouse seeking
maintenance. Schubert v. Schubert, 366 S.W.3d 55, 63
(Mo. App. E.D. 2012). Then, the court must consider whether
the party "lacks sufficient property, including marital
property apportioned to her, to provide for these reasonable
needs, or is unable to support herself through appropriate
employment." Valentine, 400 S.W.3d at 21.
spouse has established the threshold requirements for
maintenance, the trial court shall award maintenance in an
amount it deems appropriate based on all relevant factors.
L.R.S., 525 S.W.3d at 188; section 452.335.2. As an
underlying principle, an award of maintenance is "aimed
at closing the gap between the income of the spouse who seeks
maintenance and that spouse's monthly expenses."
Stirewalt v. Stirewalt, 307 S.W.3d 701, 707 (Mo.
App. S.D. 2010) (quotations omitted); see In re Marriage
of Neu, 167 S.W.3d 791, 795 (Mo. App. E.D. 2005). In
determining the amount of maintenance, the trial court is not
required to perform an exact mathematical calculation and may
award a reasonable amount above the itemized expenses of the
party seeking maintenance. Bryant v. Bryant, 351
S.W.3d 681, 690 (Mo. App. E.D. 2011). However, the court does
not have unfettered discretion to award any amount of
maintenance because maintenance awards must be "limited
to the demonstrable needs of the party receiving
[maintenance] and not to provide an accumulation of
capital." Id. (quotations omitted).
Accordingly, a maintenance award substantially exceeding the
reasonable needs of the spouse seeking maintenance is not
supported by substantial evidence and constitutes an abuse of
the trial court's discretion. Herschend v.
Herschend, 486 S.W.3d 346, 352 (Mo. App. S.D. 2015);
Bryant, 351 S.W.3d at 690.
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