In re Marriage of Gust: Spousal Support Termination

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Jan 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

In re Marriage of Gust, a spousal support appeal from the Supreme Court of Iowa, involved husband who was ordered pay $1,400 per month in spousal support (alimony) beginning upon dissolution of marriage.  Once child support payments terminated (upon child reaching age of majority), spousal support was to increase to $2,000 per month for life. Trial court also divided marital property roughly equally in its divorce decree and property division order.

1037536 money in hand

According to court records, husband filed a post-trial motion to have spousal support be set at $1,400 and then reduced to $1,000, and for a termination date to be included include rather than an order to pay spousal support for life.   Wife filed an opposition to this motion, and trial judge denied the motion.  Husband appealed this denial.

On appeal, court first looked at relevant facts of the case.  Steven and Linda Gust were married in 1985. At trial, parties had two children.  One was 17-years-old and the other was 20-years-old. Wife was 52-years-old. Husband was 57.  Husband had graduated college in 1977 and worked at several companies before joining his current employer for whom he is a general manager.

Husband earns $76,000 per year and a bonus, which was $16,000 the year prior to trial, with total salary and benefits totaling around $92,000.  Husband and wife were also co-owners of a business created to flip houses.  Husband withdrew a substantial amount of money from this business a year to prior to getting divorced, but most of this money was used to pay off credit card debt and also pay for wife's separate living expenses prior to divorce.

One reason their business was successful was because husband was certified to remove lead paint.  He testified he has no desire to continue in this line of work, but he had apparently started a new business with his girlfriend involving lead paint abatement.

Birmingham divorce attorneys routinely deal with divorce cases involving businesses jointly owned by husband and wife.  These cases may require additional litigation and an experience working with a financial specialist or forensic accountant.

During their marriage, wife worked as a bookkeeper for husband's construction business some of the time but primarily stayed home to raise their minor children.  This was done with agreement from husband while he earned the majority of their joint income.   As their children grew older, wife went to work part time and, at the time of the divorce, had two part-time jobs earning no more than $12 per hour.  Trial court concluded her earning capacity was around $22,000 per year, and appellate court agreed.

On appeal, court reviewed the case de novo.  A de novo review involves looking at the facts again, but appellate court stated they would give trial court considerable latitude.   Ultimately appellate court affirmed lower court's decision to order indefinite alimony.  Court concluded there was factual predicate established to allow for such an award.  This was a marriage lasting over 20 years and, upon agreement of both spouses, wife stayed at home with the family and husband earned their income.  By being out of the workforce and foregoing educational opportunities, she was not in a position to support herself.

If you are seeking a divorce in Birmingham, contact Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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