APPEAL FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASENOS. 2013-CA-000891,
2013-CA-000930, 2013-CA-001642 JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT NO.
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Allen McKee Dodd Jacob Wayne Crouse
Dodd 85 Dodd Attorneys, PLLC
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Eugene L. Mosley Michael Thomas
Underwood Mosley, Sauer, Townes 85 Watkins, PLLC
Weber and Thomas Francis Lambe cross-appeal the decision of
the Court of Appeals to reverse in part and affirm in part
the Jefferson Family Court. This Court granted discretionary
review, and for the reasons stated herein, we affirm in part
and reverse in part the opinion of the Court of Appeals.
and Lambe were married on October 10, 1992. They remained
together for nineteen years before separating. Two children
were born during the marriage: Margaret, born in December
1996, and Kevin, born in September 1999. Margaret was
diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of two and was
diagnosed with an eating disorder approximately two to three
months before trial. Margaret's health issues require
frequent trips to various physicians, assistance with
administration of insulin, and monitoring after meals. Weber
is a stay-at-home mother, who has not worked outside the home
since Margaret was born. Lambe has been employed by General
Electric for more than twenty-five years preceding this
September 2011, Lambe filed a petition for dissolution.
Following a two-day bench trial, the Jefferson Family Court
entered its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Decree
of Dissolution on February 26, 2013. The family court's
decree restored each party's non-marital assets and then
divided (their marital assets, which included significant
real property and numerous investment and brokerage accounts.
family court awarded the parties joint custody of the two
children and determined that their monthly living expenses
(excluding education costs) were $3, 697. The court then
ordered Lambe to pay child support in the amount of $2,
150.09 per month in addition to the $108 per month that he
paid in health insurance for the children. The family court
also determined that because of Margaret's health issues,
Weber was unable to obtain full-time employment. The family
court estimated that Weber's reasonable monthly living
expenses were $5, 800 (including 39%, or $1, 440, of the
children's living expenses), which required taxable
income of about $7, 300 per month. Accordingly, Lambe was
ordered to pay maintenance in the amount of $7, 300 per month
for a period of nine years.
the family court found that Weber used $50, 000 in marital
assets to pay her attorney's fees, and credited Lambe
with having contributed $25, 000 of that amount. Due to the
disparity in the parties' financial resources, Lambe was
ordered to pay an additional $15, 000 of Weber's
entry of the decree, both parties filed motions to alter,
amend, or vacate pursuant to Kentucky Rule of Civil Procedure
(CR) 59.05. On April 30, 2013, the family court ruled on the
motions, making minor changes to its original judgment but
otherwise denying the parties' requests. Both parties
appealed the family court's decree.
Order rendered November 14, 2014, the Court of Appeals
determined that the family court erred by including a portion
of the children's living expenses in its calculation of
Weber's maintenance award. The Court of Appeals also
found that the family court erred by failing to make findings
that justified its award of maintenance for a period of nine
years. We set forth additional background information as
STANDARD OF REVIEW.
court is required to make specific findings of fact and set
forth the conclusions of law it relied upon in rendering its
judgement. CR 52.01. Because this matter was tried without a
jury, the trial court's findings of fact "shall not
be set aside unless clearly erroneous . . . ."
Id. "If the trial judge's findings of fact
in the underlying action are not clearly erroneous,
Le., are supported by substantial evidence, then the
appellate court's role is confined to determining whether
those facts support the trial judge's legal
conclusion." Commonwealth v. Deloney, 20 S.W.3d
471, 473-74 (Ky. 2000). However, where the trial court
exercises its discretion, its decision is reviewed for an
abuse of discretion. "The test for abuse of discretion
is whether the trial judge's decision was arbitrary,
unreasonable, unfair, or unsupported by sound legal
principles." Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. v.
Thompson, 11 S.W.3d 575, 581 (Ky. 2000). The trial
court's conclusions of law are reviewed de novo.
Sawyers v. Better, 384 S.W.3d 107, 110 (Ky. 2012).