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Parisien v. Parisien

March 5, 2010

JILL PARISIEN, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE
v.
RONALD PARISIEN, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT



Appeal from the District Court of Rolette County, Northeast Judicial District, the Honorable Michael G. Sturdevant, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandstrom, Justice

AFFIRMED.

[¶1] Ronald Parisien appeals from a divorce judgment, arguing the district court erroneously awarded Jill Parisien permanent spousal support. We affirm.

I.

[¶2] Ronald and Jill Parisien were married in 1975. They have four living adult children. Jill Parisien sued for divorce in September 2008 on the grounds of adultery, extreme cruelty, willful neglect, conviction of felony, and irreconcilable differences. The case was tried in December 2008, and the district court issued a memorandum opinion and judgment granting the divorce the same month. The district court found the marriage "failed due to the personal, marital and financial misconduct of Ronald."

[¶3] At the time of the divorce, Jill Parisien was 50 years old, earning $24,000 annually, and Ronald Parisien was 52 years old, with an income of $63,350 in 2008. Their primary assets consisted of seventy acres of land Jill Parisien had inherited from her family during the marriage, a home Ronald and Jill Parisien had built on that land, and Ronald Parisien's retirement account, which was worth $47,030. The district court awarded Jill Parisien property worth $110,050, less debt of $21,990, including the house and seventy acres of land she had inherited from her family. Ronald Parisien was awarded property worth $64,330, less debt of $19,695, including his retirement account.

[¶4] The district court said an award of permanent spousal support was more appropriate than a temporary rehabilitative spousal support award, because of Jill Parisien's age, health difficulties, and earning capacity. The court found Jill Parisien, who was 50 years old at the time of the divorce, had reached her maximum earning capacity at $24,000 a year, and to exceed that level of earnings, she would need to further her education, which at this stage of her life would not necessarily be rewarded. The district court awarded Jill Parisien $1,500 per month in spousal support for two years, and $1,250 per month in spousal support thereafter. Spousal support would terminate upon her death, her remarriage or cohabitation for more than sixty days, or her attainment of age sixty-five. The district court also ordered Ronald Parisien to continue to provide health insurance coverage for Jill Parisien until she is eligible for Medicare or remarries, whichever first occurs.

[¶5] The district court had jurisdiction under N.D. Const. art. VI, § 8, and N.D.C.C. § 27-05-06. The appeal was timely under N.D.R.App.P. 4(a). This Court has jurisdiction under N.D. Const. art. VI, §§ 2 and 6, and N.D.C.C. § 28-27-01.

II.

[¶6] Ronald Parisien argues the district court erred in awarding Jill Parisien spousal support.

[¶7] A district court may award spousal support to a party in a divorce action for any period of time. N.D.C.C. § 14-05-24.1. Spousal support determinations are findings of fact and will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. Overland v. Overland, 2008 ND 6, ¶ 16, 744 N.W.2d 67. A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it induced by an erroneous view of the law, if there is no evidence to support it, or if this Court is left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made. Lindberg v. Lindberg, 2009 ND 136, ¶ 27, 770 N.W.2d 252. In awarding spousal support, the district court must consider the relevant factors of the Ruff-Fischer guidelines. Overland, at ¶ 16; Fischer v. Fischer, 139 N.W.2d 845 (N.D. 1966); Ruff v. Ruff, 78 N.D. 775, 52 N.W.2d 107 (1952). Factors to consider under the Ruff-Fischer guidelines include:

the respective ages of the parties, their earning ability, the duration of the marriage and conduct of the parties during the marriage, their station in life, the circumstances and necessities of each, their health and physical condition, their financial circumstances as shown by the property owned at the time, its value at the time, its income-producing capacity, if any, whether accumulated before or after the marriage, and such other matters as may be material.

Lindberg, at ¶ 28 (citations omitted). The needs of the spouse seeking support and the supporting spouse's needs and ability to pay must also be considered. Overland, at ¶ 16.

[ΒΆ8] There are two types of spousal support. While permanent spousal support is appropriate to provide traditional maintenance for a spouse who is incapable of rehabilitation, rehabilitative spousal support is awarded to provide a spouse time and resources to acquire an education, training, work skills, or experience that will enable the spouse to become self-supporting. Van Oosting v. van Oosting, 521 N.W.2d 93, 100 (N.D. 1994) (citation omitted). Rehabilitative spousal support is preferred, but ...


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