Case Law Update: Favorable Judgment No Defense To Interest On Maintenance

Recent Case Summary

Statute requires interest on maintenance not paid. Neither "good faith . . . reliance upon what [Obligor] understood to be a valid court order" that no interest was due, nor Obligee's inconsistent theories on amount due, are a defense. Circuit Court did not abuse its discretion in denying attorney fees award "based on a variety of factors expressly authorized by" statute.

Case Holding

Appellant was entitled to statutory interest pursuant to section 454.520.3, RSMo, for the entire time period that Respondent failed to pay his full obligation under the divorce decree. The obligation to pay interest under section 454.520.3 is mandatory and is intended to compensate the recipient spouse, rather than punish the payor. Although Respondent may have relied in good faith on the circuit court's 2002 modification order, this court held that the 2002 order was null and void; Respondent's obligation to make $4,000 per month maintenance payments under the original divorce decree thus subsisted throughout the relevant period. On this issue the judgment is reversed, and remanded to the circuit court for calculation of the interest owing to Appellant.

The circuit court denied Appellant's request for attorneys fees and costs based on multiple factors, including Appellant's resources, the justiciability of the issue concerning the validity of the 2002 modification, Appellant's delay in seeking an attorneys fee award, and her conduct during the litigation. Pursuant to section 452.355.1, RSMo, the circuit court has broad discretion in deciding whether an award of attorneys fees is warranted. This court finds no abuse of discretion in the circumstances, and the circuit court's denial of attorneys fees and costs is affirmed.

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Source for Post: Missouri Bar