Case Law Update: Award of Maintenance (Alimony) Upheld

Case Summary:
Past standard of living is not the standard for setting maintenance, but Wife showed that she can not meet her reasonable needs by working presently or in the future because of poor health and limited education. Circuit Court awarded proper amount, but used wrong term, in awarding maintenance, so Court of Appeals amends judgment to use right term. Substantial evidence supports imputation of income to Husband and award of attorney fees against him.
In re the Marriage of Debbie Lynn Taylor and Willie James Taylor, Debbie Lynn Taylor, Petitioner-Respondent, v. Willie James Taylor, Respondent-Appellant. Missouri Court of Appeals Southern District

Missouri Law pertaining to Awards of Maintenance (Alimony)
The trial court can award maintenance only if it finds that the party seeking maintenance "(1) Lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him, to provide for his reasonable needs; and (2) Is unable to support himself through appropriate employment[.]" Section 452.335.1.This section requires the trial court to follow a two-part threshold test. The court must initially determine if the requesting party has sufficient property to meet his or her reasonable needs, and if they do not, then the court must examine whether or not the party's reasonable needs can be met through appropriate employment. Childers v. Childers,26 S.W.3d 851, 854 (Mo.App.W.D. 2000). The spouse seeking maintenance has the burden of establishing the threshold requirements. Comninellis v. Comninellis, 147 S.W.3d 102, 106 (Mo.App.W.D. 2004). After the court finds the threshold test has been satisfied, then the court may consider the statutory factors under Section 452.335.2 with respect to amounts and duration. Monsees v. Monsees, 908 S.W.2d 812, 817 (Mo.App.W.D. 1995).

In this case, Wife established that (1) she lacked sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to her during the dissolution, to meet her reasonable needs; and (2) that she is unable to support herself through appropriate employment.

Under Section 452.335.2, the court, in determining the amount and duration of a maintenance award, may consider all relevant factors including:

    • The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently[;]

    • The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment;

    • The comparative earning capacity of each spouse;

    • The standard of living established during the marriage;

    • The obligations and assets, including the marital property apportioned to him and the separate property of each party;

    • The duration of the marriage;

    • The age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;

    • The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;

    • The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and

    (10) Any other relevant factors.