Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lucas v. Lucas case brief

Lucas v. Lucas case brief summary
592 S.E.2d 646 (2003)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Appellant husband appealed from an order of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County (West Virginia) affirming a decision by the family court reducing an award of spousal support. A family court judge, adopting the recommendation of the family law master, had found that a de facto marriage existed between appellee wife and a third party justifying the reduction but not a termination of the husband's obligation.

CASE FACTS
The husband contended that the family court and the trial court erred in failing to terminate his support obligation completely based upon findings that a de facto marriage existed between the wife and a third party.

DISCUSSION

  • In reversing the determination of the trial court, the appellate court noted that the record revealed that the family law master was properly presented with financial disclosures from both parties. 
  • However, it did not appear that the family law master thoroughly evaluated the financial resources available to the wife through the de facto marriage, her continued need for alimony of a particular amount, or a comparison between her financial status originally justifying a spousal support award and her financial status as a de facto spouse. 
  • Thus, the appellate court deemed each of the respective orders of the family master, family court judge, and trial court to be arbitrary and an abuse of discretion. 
  • As for the husband's assertion that the family court erred in denying him attorney fees, the appellate court concluded that W. Va. Code § 48-5-707(a)(3) only permitted the recipient of spousal support to be eligible for an award of attorney fees.
CONCLUSION
The trial court's determination regarding the reduction in spousal support was reversed and the case was remanded for further evaluation focusing on the wife's continued need for support and an order complying with the statutory mandate regarding retroactivity. The trial court's refusal to award attorney fees to the husband was affirmed.

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