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In re Marriage of Boatfield

Court of Appeals of Oregon

May 30, 2019

In the Matter of the Marriage of Susan Jacqueline BOATFIELD, Petitioner-Appellant, and Randall Edward BOATFIELD, Respondent-Respondent.

          Steven B. Reed, Senior Judge. (General Judgment; Supplemental Judgment entered September 3, 2014)

          Jean Marie Martwick, Judge. (Supplemental Judgment entered February 27, 2014)

          Argued and submitted on May 15, 2018.

          Columbia County Circuit Court 113217;

          Michael J. Fearl argued the cause for appellant. Also on the reply brief was Schulte, Anderson, Downes, Aronson & Bittner, P.C. On the opening brief was Clayton C. Patrick.

          Erin K. Fitzgerald argued the cause for respondent. Also on the brief was Case & Dusterhoff, LLP.

          Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Powers, Judge. [*]

         [297 Or.App. 717] Case Summary: Wife appeals a general judgment of dissolution and a supplemental judgment awarding spousal support. The disputes on appeal concern the spousal support and life insurance awards. Wife contends that the trial court's award was not "just and equitable" under ORS 107.105(1)(d), given that this was a long-term marriage and the disparity in the parties' incomes and earning capacities. Held: The trial court failed to make sufficient findings to support its spousal support and life insurance awards. As a result of this error, the Court of Appeals is unable to determine whether those determinations were "just and equitable."

         [297 Or.App. 718] ORTEGA, P. J.

         Wife appeals a general judgment of dissolution and a supplemental judgment awarding spousal support, asserting five assignments of error. The primary disputes on appeal concern the spousal support and life insurance awards. We reject wife's other three assignments of error without further discussion. We conclude that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings to support its spousal support award and its decision not to require husband to purchase life insurance, leaving us unable to determine whether those determinations were "just and equitable" under ORS 107.105(1)(d). Accordingly, we reverse and remand for the trial court to make the appropriate findings and to reconsider the spousal support and life insurance awards, and otherwise affirm.

         Wife requests de novo review; however, because this is not an exceptional case, we decline to exercise our discretion to apply such review. See ORS 19.415(3)(b) (stating that we have discretion to apply de novo review in equitable actions); ORAP 5.40(8)(c) (stating that we will exercise that discretion only in exceptional cases). Accordingly, because we decline to review the facts de novo, we are bound by a trial court's findings of historical fact if there is any evidence in the record to support them. Berg and Berg, 250 Or.App. 1, 2, 279 P.3d 286 (2012). "[T]he trial court's award will be upheld if, given the findings of the trial court that are supported by the record, the court's determination that an award of support is 'just and equitable' represents a choice among legally correct alternatives." Id.

         Wife sought an award of $2, 000 per month in indefinite spousal support and a requirement for husband to maintain $300, 000 in life insurance naming wife as the beneficiary for as long as he had an obligation to pay spousal support. The court awarded wife $1, 050 per month in transitional support for 12 years and made no life insurance award. Over the course of the proceedings, the court made the following findings relevant to the issue of spousal support:

"[Wife] is 47 years of age and husband is 48 years of age. Both of the parties are in apparent good health with no [297 Or.App. 719] health problems sufficient to keep them from being fully and gainfully employed. The parties were married in 1984 when she was 19 and he was 21. She did not graduate from high school. The parties have two adult children. [Wife] has been a homemaker[1] with some employment, usually at unskilled labor jobs. [Wife] has not had significant employment in a number of years and this Court finds she is underemployed. Husband has been steadily employed since the time of the marriage now working for Ford Motor Company for the last 22 years as a warehouse supervisor."
"The Court would indicate that, as stated in the original letter, this Court believes [wife] is underemployed. She has made no significant effort to find employment or to otherwise offset the parties' debt during the entire ...

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