February 19, 2009

New Case Law – why trial court findings and evidence are important

As a Portland Oregon divorce law firm, Stephens & Margolin LLP is dedicated to keeping up to date on Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court opinions. As a service of The Oregon Divorce Blog, we will be providing updates as new opinions come out.

On February 18, 2009, the Oregon Court of Appeals published an opinion in Talik and Talik. The case is an appeal from a divorce judgment. Husband objected to the trial court ruling on three issues: 1. That the court erred in calculating child support; 2. That the court erred in not awarding him compensatory spousal support; and 3. That the court erred in limiting his parenting time.

The parties were married for 16 years. During the marriage, Husband worked for a period of time while Wife attended medical school. The parties moved around in order to meet Wife’s needs. The parties had three children.

With regard to the limitations on Husband’s parenting time, the court of appeals agreed with the trial court. There was evidence at trial that husband hit and kicked two of the children. The trial court found that Husband’s behavior negatively affected the children. In addition, a custody evaluator made recommendations regarding parenting time that the court agreed with. Husband provided no compelling argument to the court of appeals to deviate from the court’s decision.

With regard to Husband’s argument that he should have been awarded compensatory child support, the court of appeals disagreed with Husband and agreed with the trial court. The court explained that compensatory spousal support is available where the party requesting the support shows that they made a “significant financial or other contribution” to the factors set forth in ORS 107.105(1)(d)(B)(i) to (vi). The significant contribution is not limited to enhancing the earning capacity of the other party because that is only one of the “areas to which a spouse may contribute in order to meet the threshold requirement for compensatory spousal support.” A contribution to the education, training, or career of the other party is sufficient. If a party meets the initial threshold, then the court must determine whether a compensatory spousal support award is “otherwise just and equitable in all of the circumstances.” Here, the court of appeals found that while Husband had met the threshold requirement of a significant contribution that such and award would not be just and equitable in the circumstances of this case.

With regard to Husband’s claim that the court erred in calculating child support, the court of appeals disagreed. The trial court had the opportunity to hear witnesses and obtain a clear understanding of the parties’ finances.

The entire opinion can be found at http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A134376.htm

The case teaches us that trial court factual findings are key in any appellate case. While the court of appeals does review these cases de novo, it relies on the court’s factual findings.

The lawyers, including Daniel Margolin, who focuses part of his pratice on family law appeals, at Stephens & Margolin LLP can assist parties going through a divorce or appeal from a divorce judgment. As this case shows, it is crucial to have a competent attorney at the trial court level. If you have any questions about Oregon appellate law please contact Daniel Margolin or C. Sean Stephens at Stephens & Margolin LLP