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In re Marriage of Tilson

Court of Appeals of Oregon

December 26, 2013

In the Matter of the Marriage of SANDRA JEAN TILSON, Petitioner-Respondent Cross-Appellant, and DOUGLAS VICTOR TILSON, Respondent-Appellant Cross-Respondent.

Argued and submitted on May 06, 2013.

Washington County Circuit Court C103209DRC Keith R. Raines, Judge.

Helen C. Tompkins argued the cause for appellant-cross-respondent. On the briefs was Launa Lawrence Helton.

Margaret H. Leek Leiberan argued the cause for respondent-cross-appellant. With her on the briefs was Jensen & Leiberan.

Before Schuman, Presiding Judge, and Duncan, Judge, and Lagesen, Judge. [*]

LAGESEN, J.

The issue in this case is whether wife's remarriage approximately five months after the dissolution of her marriage to husband resulted in "a substantial change in economic circumstances" sufficient to permit the trial court to reconsider the spousal support award to wife under ORS 107.135(3)(a), [1] and, if so, whether the trial court abused its discretion when it continued husband's $1, 000 monthly maintenance support obligation after terminating husband's $500 monthly transitional support obligation. We hold that the trial court correctly concluded that wife's remarriage resulted in a sufficient change in wife's economic circumstances to authorize the trial court to reconsider the spousal support award and that the trial court acted within its discretion when it continued maintenance support. Accordingly, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In accordance with our standard of review, we "state the facts consistently with the trial court's express and implied findings, supplemented with uncontroverted information from the record." Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick, 248 Or.App. 539, 541, 271 P.3d 361 (2012). The parties' 20-year marriage was dissolved on June 9, 2011. At the time of the dissolution, husband earned a monthly gross income of $5, 411.18 from his job as a TriMet light-rail operator. Wife earned approximately $726 per month as a self-employed nail technician. The trial court awarded spousal support to wife as follows: $2, 000 per month ($1, 000 as transitional support and $1, 000 as maintenance support) for three months, from May 1, 2011 to August 1, 2011; $1, 500 per month ($500 as transitional support and $1, 000 as maintenance support) for two years, to August 1, 2013; and $1, 000 per month as maintenance support for an indefinite period of time beginning August 1, 2013. The dissolution judgment stated that spousal support was

"awarded based on the length of the marriage (20 year marriage); the disparity in the parties' income; Wife sacrificed her career in part to help advance Husband in his career and to help care for Husband's son; and Wife is not afforded the same benefits from employment as Husband."

The judgment further stated, "At any point, if Wife obtains employment where she consistently grosses $3, 600.00 a month plus full benefits, Husband may [move] the court for a Show Cause hearing regarding modification of spousal support."

Approximately five months later, wife remarried. At the time of dissolution, wife had been cohabitating with her new spouse, Prucha. However, at that point, neither wife nor husband anticipated that wife would marry Prucha. Upon learning of wife's remarriage, husband moved to modify the award of spousal support.

The trial court held an evidentiary hearing in March 2012 to evaluate the parties' respective financial positions. At that time, husband was earning approximately $400 less per month than he had been earning at the time of dissolution because of a reduction in his shift length, but husband did not contend that that reduction in income warranted a reduction in his spousal support obligation. Wife was employed as a cashier for a bark-dust company, a job she had held for several months. She was earning approximately $1, 668.33 per month. The job permitted wife to take online classes in her free time at work. Through those classes, wife was developing the skills required to transition into better employment. Prucha was earning at most $3, 856.67 per month[2] as a drafter for a manufacturing company. Prucha had a $413.60 monthly child support obligation and paid $50 a month for his son's health insurance coverage. Wife obtained dental insurance through Prucha's employer, paying for that coverage herself; wife recently had obtained basic medical coverage through her employer.

Wife and Prucha had not commingled their finances and were leery of doing so because of their experiences with prior marriages. Nonetheless, Prucha's intent in marrying wife was to live with her, and to take care of her, for the rest of his life. As a result of her remarriage, wife felt that she no longer needed the $500 monthly transitional support, which was scheduled to run for nearly another year and five months, provided that she could ask the trial court to restore the additional ...


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