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Loren R. Woodward v. Rita Woodward

April 8, 2013

LOREN R. WOODWARD,
PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT
v.
RITA WOODWARD,
DEFENDANT AND APPELLEE



Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Gail Hagerty, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

N.D. Supreme CourtWoodward v. Woodward, 2013 ND 58

This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]

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AFFIRMED.

Opinion of the Court by VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

[¶1] Loren Woodward appealed from a divorce judgment ordering him to pay spousal support in the amount of $1,000.00 per month to Rita Woodward. We affirm.

I.

[¶2] Loren and Rita Woodward were married in December of 1991. They had no children together. Loren Woodward is a Navy veteran, and began working for BNSF Railroad in 2001. He currently makes more than $78,000.00 per year. Rita Woodward has college degrees in Music and English Literature, with a minor in German. She has never used her degrees professionally. In the past, she has worked as a Certified Nurse's Assistant and at Walmart. She currently works at Wagner Chiropractic, and makes around $27,000.00 per year. The couple moved fairly frequently to advance Loren Woodward's career with BNSF. Both parties had extramarital affairs near the end of the marriage, and Loren Woodward admitted to drinking excessive amounts of alcohol during the marriage. Rita Woodward had breast cancer, but it is in remission.

[¶3] Loren Woodward filed for divorce in 2011. A trial was held on the issues of property division and spousal support. The district court awarded Rita Woodward a net distribution of $66,592.78, and awarded Loren Woodward a net distribution of $42,465.20. It found this was a relatively long-term marriage, and that Loren Woodward's drinking and extramarital relationship contributed to the breakup of the marriage. The district court also found that moving to advance Loren Woodward's job had not significantly diminished Rita Woodward's job prospects, but that her earning potential was not much higher than she was currently making. The court found that Loren Woodward's standard of living had remained stable after the couple separated, but that Rita Woodward's standard of living had markedly declined. The district court noted that Rita Woodward currently does not have health insurance, which she needs, and that she no longer has access to the types of recreation they had while the couple was married. The court ruled that "spousal support is appropriate and necessary to ensure that Ms. Woodward isn't unfairly impacted by the reduction of her standard of living while Mr. Woodward's standard of living remains as it was or better than it was during the marriage." The district court ordered Loren Woodward to pay $1,000.00 per month in spousal support to Rita Woodward.

II.

[¶4] A court may award spousal support under N.D.C.C. § 14-05-24.1. When deciding whether spousal support is appropriate, a court must consider the Ruff-Fischer guidelines, including:

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. Duff v. Kearns-Duff, 2010 ND 247, ¶ 14, 792 N.W.2d 916. See Fischer v. Fischer, 139 N.W.2d 845, 852 (N.D. 1966); Ruff v. Ruff, 78 N.D. 775, 784, 52 N.W.2d 107, 111 (1952). "The court must also consider the needs of the spouse seeking support and the ability of the other spouse to pay." Becker v. Becker, 2011 ND 107, ¶ 28, 799 N.W.2d 53. The court does not need to make a finding on every factor, but must explain the rationale for its decision. Id.

[¶5] A district court's finding of spousal support is a finding of fact subject to review under the clearly erroneous standard. Becker, 2011 ND 107, ¶ 6, 799 N.W.2d 53. "A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, no evidence exists to support the finding, or ...


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