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In re Marriage of Hall

Court of Appeals of Oregon

June 11, 2014

In the Matter of the Marriage of W. DOUGLAS HALL, Petitioner-Appellant, And STEPHANIE BUTH-HALL, Respondent-Respondent

Argued and Submitted February 12, 2014

Clackamas County Circuit Court DR0005660. Robert D. Herndon, Judge.

W. Michael Gillette argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs were Leora Coleman-Fire and Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, P.C.

John Moore argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Jonathan H. Johnson and Moore Law Group, P.C.

Before Duncan, Presiding Judge, and Wollheim, Judge, and Lagesen, Judge.

OPINION

Page 809

[263 Or.App. 430] WOLLHEIM, J.

Husband appeals a judgment denying his motion to modify a 2001 dissolution judgment by terminating the indefinite maintenance spousal support obligation. He argues that the trial court erred in determining that husband failed to prove that wife's efforts to become self-supporting in the 10 years following dissolution were not reasonable as required under ORS 107.407 and ORS 107.412(2). Assuming that husband prevails on that assignment, he also assigns error to the trial court's award of $40,000 in attorney fees to wife. We conclude that the trial court did not err in determining that husband failed to prove that wife's efforts to become financially self-supporting were unreasonable, and therefore affirm.

The parties do not ask that we exercise our discretion under ORS 19.415(3) to review the record de novo. Because the sole issue on appeal is a question of law, we accept the trial court's express and implicit factual findings that are supported by sufficient evidence in the record and review the trial court's legal conclusions for errors of law. Morton and Morton, 252 Or.App. 525, 527, 287 P.3d 1227 (2012).

The facts are largely undisputed. The parties were divorced in 2001 after nearly 22 years of marriage. During the marriage, wife was the primary caretaker of the parties' two children and worked part-time as a " fragrance model," earning approximately $1,126 per month at the time of dissolution.[1] Husband earned approximately $17,895 per month at the time of dissolution as the president of an industrial manufacturing company. The parties lived in a large home on the Clackamas River, which they sold after the 2001 divorce for $975,000. As part of the dissolution proceedings, the parties entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement. As part of that agreement, the parties stipulated that husband would pay wife $2,000 per month in transitional spousal support for 36 months and $3,000 per month in indefinite maintenance spousal support. Initially, the parties [263 Or.App. 431] stipulated to joint custody of their two children, and wife received $821 per month in child support payments, but those payments ceased seven months later when the parties agreed that husband would have sole legal and physical custody of the parties' only minor child, who was then 11 years old. At the time of dissolution, wife was 43 years

Page 810

of age, in good health, and had a high school education with one year of college education.

After dissolution, wife continued to work as a part-time fragrance model for multiple fragrance companies. Between 2001 and 2008, she was earning approximately $26,000 per year, but her earnings dropped drastically beginning in 2008 due to a downturn in the economy. Between 2008 and 2011, wife earned between $7,000 and $17,000 per year as a fragrance model, working an average of seven to 17 hours per week for approximately $21 per hour, and received unemployment compensation in the seasons when fragrance modeling work was routinely unavailable.[2]

In addition to continuing her work as a fragrance model, wife pursued a real estate business. Drawing on her experience of selling real property, wife believed that real estate investments would provide her with a monthly income and allow her to build equity. Wife's real estate business included buying and selling a home for profit; buying investment properties, which she improved, rented out, managed, and maintained; and working part-time at an apartment duplex screening tenants, preparing rental agreements, and providing maintenance and repair services at a rate of $20 per hour. Wife was working approximately 20 to 30 hours per week managing the rental ...


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