Family Law Keyed to Weisberg

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Topic /161
Michael v. Michael

Citation. Michael v. Michael, 791 S.W.2d 772, 1990 Mo. App. LEXIS 689 (Mo. Ct. App. May 1, 1990)

Brief Fact Summary. Appellant, husband, and plaintiff, wife, led a marriage in which plaintiff provide for financial stability and husband only provided limited domestic work. Appellant challenged the trial court’s division of marital property and failure to award maintenance upon divorce.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The sex of the parties should have no effect on the division of marital property and allowance of maintenance.

Facts. Appellant, husband, and respondent, wife, were married in 1972 and separated in 1987. In 1972 the parties moved to Arkansas were respondent was going to work for Southwestern Bell Corp. and appellant worked as a reporter for a local newspaper. Respondent received a promotion and moved to St. Louis, where appellant eventually was fired from Maritz, Inc. The couple agreed he would not seek outside employment, devoting his time to writing fiction. Respondent received another promotion and the parties moved to Oklahoma City, where appellant continued to pursue a writing career. He later abandoned his effort without having written a chapter. He then worked briefly in a food store and spent 8-9 months working in free-lance public relations. When not employed, the couple agreed appellant would be responsible for the general upkeep of the house and preparation of dinner. He spent several hours per day preparing the meal, but respondent claimed that his other domestic chores we
re very lax. In the two years the couple lived in Oklahoma City, he drove respondent to work. In 1984 respondent was transferred to St. Louis, where appellant continued to cook dinner and periodically took respondent to work. At the time of trial respondent was earning over $70,000 per year with appellant receiving $75 per month in interest.

Issue. Did the trial court err in its division of the marital property and failure to award appellant maintenance?

Held. The trial court abused its discretion in dividing the marital property and failing ot award rehabilitative maintenance to appellant.
Missouri statute directs the trial court to divide the marital property in a just manner, considering all relevant factors. The guiding principles inherent in this statute are that property division should reflect the concept of marriage as a shared enterprise similar to a partnership; and, should be utilized as a means of providing future support for an economically dependant spouse.

Throughout the marriage appellant has become economically dependant on the respondent. Although the Court does not find that appellant’s contributions entitled him to an equal division of the marital property, it finds that the trial court’s determination that appellant made not substantial contribution to the marriage resulted in an abuse of discretion in dividing the marital property.

Appellant also claims that the trial court erred in awarding no maintenance to him for the time he needs to obtain necessary education and retraining to gain satisfactory employment. Maintenance is awarded when one spouse detrimentally relies upon the other to provide monetary support for the marriage. Rehabilitative maintenance is appropriate in situations such as this where there is substantial evidence the party seeking maintenance will or should become self-supporting.

Dissent. Accepting the concept of marriage as a shared enterprise, this husband had a negative impact on the marriage. He is unwilling, rather than unable to support himself

Discussion. The majority finds that the sex of the parties should have no effect on the division of marital property and allowance of maintenance regardless of reversed gender roles. The dissent did not believe that the husband provided sufficient support either financially or domestically.