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Wattenberger v. Wattenberger

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

May 3, 2019

CHARLES W. WATTENBERGER, JR. APPELLANT
v.
FLORA Y. WATTENBERGER APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM HARLAN CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE KENT HENDRICKSON, JUDGE ACTION NO. 14-CI-00150

          BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Otis Doan, Jr. Harlan, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Flora Wattenberger, pro se Harlan, Kentucky

          BEFORE: JONES, LAMBERT, AND K. THOMPSON, JUDGES.

          OPINION VACATING AND REMANDING

          LAMBERT, JUDGE:

         Charles W. Wattenberger appeals from the Harlan Circuit Court order dividing the marital property, assigning debt, and awarding maintenance in the dissolution of his marriage to Flora Y. Wattenberger. We vacate the order and remand to the circuit court for further proceedings.

         Charles and Flora were married in January 1982 and separated in July 2013. Two children were born of the marriage; both are now adults. The couple made several failed attempts at reconciliation. Flora filed her petition for dissolution in April 2014. She requested maintenance in the amount of $1, 000 per month and that Charles be held responsible for their son's student loan debt. The domestic relations commissioner held the final hearing on March 2, 2016, and tendered recommendations on September 26, 2016. The circuit court held a supplemental hearing on August 8, 2016, and ultimately adopted the master commissioner's recommendations (and overruled the exceptions filed by Charles) on November 14 of that year.

         On appeal, Charles challenges several aspects of the circuit court's holdings. We first address his argument that the circuit court failed to make the statutorily required findings of fact prior to awarding maintenance to Flora. We agree.

         Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 403.200 reads:

(1) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation, or a proceeding for maintenance following dissolution of a marriage by a court which lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse, the court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse only if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:
(a) Lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him, to provide for his reasonable needs; and
(b) Is unable to support himself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.
(2) The maintenance order shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, and after considering all relevant factors including:
(a) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with ...

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