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Stowe v. Stowe

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

March 4, 2015

LUTHER STOWE, III, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
CHARLEEN GAYE SHUFFIELD STOWE, Defendant-Appellee

Page 639

Appealed from the Third Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lincoln, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 56,662. Honorable R. Wayne Smith, Judge.

TERESA CULPEPPER CARROLL, LEWIS A. JONES, Counsel for Appellant.

LAKEISHA J. JOHNSON, Counsel for Appellee.

Before WILLIAMS, CARAWAY and PITMAN, JJ.

OPINION

Page 640

[49,596 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] CARAWAY, J.

In these proceedings for spousal support, the appellant contests the judgment granting his former spouse final periodic spousal support of $750 per month. For the following reasons, we affirm.

Facts

After a 25-year marriage, Luther Stowe was granted a judgment of divorce from his wife, Charleen, on December 12, 2013, on the grounds of their living separate and apart without reconciliation for more than 180 days. By reconventional demand, Charleen sought final periodic support from Luther. A hearing on the issues of fault and amount of support occurred on March 10, 2014. Luther, Charleen, and Luther's daughter gave testimony, but no documentation of income or other financial data were filed in evidence. After the hearing, the trial court granted Charleen final periodic spousal support of $750 per month retroactive in accordance with law. The court also granted Luther a credit for support paid subsequent to demand, excluding payments made on the car note and insurance. This appeal by Luther ensued.

Discussion

In a proceeding for divorce or thereafter, the court may award final periodic support to a party who is in need of support and who is free from fault prior to the filing of a proceeding to terminate the marriage. La. C.C. art. 111. Fault is a threshold issue in a claim for spousal support. King v. King, 48,881 (La.App. 2d Cir. 2/26/14), 136 So.3d 941; Hunter v. Hunter, 44,703 (La.App. 2d Cir. 9/30/09), 21 So.3d 1032. A spouse seeking final [49,596 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] periodic spousal support must be without fault and the burden of proof is on the claimant. King, supra. The word fault contemplates conduct or substantial acts of commission or omission by a spouse violative of his or her marital duties and responsibilities. A spouse is not deprived of spousal support after divorce simply because he or she was not totally blameless in the marital discord. Id. Only misconduct of a serious nature, providing an independent contributory or proximate cause of the breakup, equates to legal fault. Id. Legal fault includes, but is not limited to, habitual intemperance or excesses, cruel treatment or outrages and abandonment. King, supra ; Hunter, supra. Mere bickering and fussing do not constitute cruel treatment for purposes of determining alimony. Id.

Final periodic spousal support is limited to an amount sufficient for maintenance, as opposed to continuance of an accustomed style of living. Richards v. Richards, 49,260 (La.App. 2d Cir. 8/13/14), 147 So.3d 800. Maintenance includes the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, clothing, transportation, medical and drug expenses, utilities, household maintenance, and income tax liability generated by alimony payments. Id. The claimant spouse does not need to prove necessitous circumstances. Id. The court shall consider all relevant factors in determining the amount and duration of final support, including:

1) The income and means of the parties, including the liquidity of such means.
2) The financial obligations of the parties, including any interim allowance or final child support obligation.
3) The earning capacity of the parties.

Page 641

4) The effect of custody of children upon a party's ...

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