Your CFL Designation for Divorce Practitioners has prepared you to solve financial problems in your cases with ease.  You rely on the skills you gained to adapt to different situations and find the best solutions for your clients.

Sometimes, things happen that you don’t expect and you need to change course.  As in the case of Wattenberger vs. Wattenberger, a trial court had ordered the parties’ marital home to be sold to pay the ex-wife’s maintenance claim, and the ex-husband had to pay their son’s student loan debt.  In the process, the court failed to base its decision on findings of fact.


The Situation

Charles and Flora married in 1982 and divorced in 2014.  Flora asked for maintenance of $1,000 monthly and that Charles be held responsible for their adult son’s student loan debt.  

In his 2016 appeal, Mr. Wattenberger challenged several parts of the circuit court’s ruling, mainly that the court failed to make findings of fact, as the law required, before awarding maintenance.

According to Kentucky law, the court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse only if it finds that the spouse who seeks maintenance:

“(a) Lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him, to provide for his reasonable needs; and

(b) Is unable to support himself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.”

Before the final hearing, Charles had been laid off from a construction company and Flora worked full-time.  They had refinanced their marital home and had to sell it to pay Flora’s maintenance claim, and give 65 percent of the proceeds to Flora and 35 percent to Charles.  


The Decision

The Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed the Harland Circuit Court’s decision.  It noted that the trial court record didn’t show a property appraisal or valuation, with no findings to support the ratio of the division of property.  

Also, it wasn’t clear whether the court’s consideration of Flora’s “reasonable needs,” according to state law, included her caring for the couple’s adult son and his family and paying for a cell phone plan for her son and his wife and Flora’s mother.  

The Court of Appeals sent the decision back to the circuit court for further findings.  The appellate court also directed the trial court to consider Flora’s pension, acquired during the marriage, and her withdrawal of money from the couple’s joint checking account before distributing their assets and debts.

As for their adult son’s student loan debt, the Court of Appeals stated that the circuit court “made no findings to support its assignment to Charles of this emancipated child’s debt.  The circuit court is directed to make the necessary findings on this issue as well.”

These and other financial issues in divorce settlements can be hard to resolve unless you know what to do.  That’s where a CFL™ Designation helps. The knowledge and skills you learn from this course also give you an edge over other family law practitioners.  Request our free information packet today!