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Varty v. Varty

Supreme Court of North Dakota

February 21, 2019

Thomas D. Varty, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Kathleen A. Varty, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Williams County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Joshua B. Rustad, Judge.

          Thomas J. Corcoran, Williston, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Thomas E. Kalil (argued), H. Malcolm Pippin (on brief), and Kaitlin A. DeCrescente (on brief), Williston, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION OF THE COURT

          Crothers, Justice.

         [¶1] Kathleen Varty appeals from an amended divorce judgment, arguing the district court erred in reducing Thomas Varty's spousal support obligation. We affirm.

         I

         [¶2] The parties were married in 1981 and have two adult children. In 2011 Thomas Varty commenced an action seeking a divorce. In November 2011 the parties executed a marital termination agreement dividing their property and awarding Kathleen Varty spousal support of $3, 175 per month for eight years and $1, 500 per month for four additional years. In December 2011 the district court entered judgment incorporating the parties' agreement. The judgment's spousal support provision states:

"Plaintiff will pay Defendant spousal support in the amount of $3, 175 per month for eight years and $1, 500 per month for four years. There will be spousal support for a total of twelve years (144 months). Spousal support will be payable on the first of each month until Defendant dies or remarries, whichever happens first. Spousal support will not increase but may be reduced because of, but not limited to, the following:
1. Plaintiff's income is reduced at no fault of his own[.]"

         [¶3] In August 2017 Thomas Varty moved to terminate spousal support, claiming his oil field related income was reduced through no fault of his own. In support of his motion, Thomas Varty argued his job history shows he left employment at Sun Well Services in June 2012 for Magna Energy, where he made about $132, 000 a year. Ranger Energy purchased Magna in January 2017 and eliminated his position in May 2017. He found employment with Calfrac in August 2017, and he later accepted employment at American Well Service making $75, 000 per year.

         [¶4] At a hearing on March 21, 2018, the district court received the parties' testimony and evidence regarding modification of the spousal support obligation. In May 2018 the court issued its findings of fact, conclusions of law and order for judgment. The district court subsequently entered an amended judgment reducing Thomas Varty's spousal support obligation to $500 per month.

         II

         [¶5] Kathleen Varty argues the district court erred in finding a material change of circumstances and in reducing Thomas Varty's spousal support obligation.

         [¶6] Our standard of review for a district court decision modifying ...


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