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Lesley v. Lesley

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 25, 2014

MARJORIE O. LESLEY, Appellant-Respondent/Cross-Appellee,
v.
ROBERT T. LESLEY, Appellee-Petitioner/Cross-Appellant

APPEAL FROM THE TIPPECANOE SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Thomas H. Busch, Judge. Cause No. 79D02-1008-DR-264.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: CYNTHIA L. GARWOOD, Lafayette, Indiana.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: MARCEL KATZ, Law Offices of Marcel Katz, Lafayette, Indiana.

CRONE, Judge. NAJAM, J., concurs. BAKER, J., concurs with separate opinion.

OPINION

Page 964

CRONE, Judge.

Case Summary

Marjorie O. Lesley (" Wife" ) and Robert T. Lesley (" Husband" ) obtained a divorce. In the final dissolution decree, the trial court found that Wife did not present sufficient evidence to establish that she was entitled to incapacity maintenance, but indicated that it would reevaluate the issue if the Social Security Administration (" SSA" ) determined that she was disabled. Subsequently, the SSA found that Wife was disabled, and she filed a petition with the trial court to revisit the issue of incapacity maintenance. The trial court then issued an order finding that Wife was entitled to rehabilitative maintenance from the time of the dissolution until the emancipation of the parties' youngest child. Wife filed a motion to correct error, arguing that the trial court erred in granting her rehabilitative maintenance rather than incapacity maintenance. The trial court denied her motion.

Wife appeals the denial of her motion to correct error, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that she was entitled to rehabilitative maintenance rather than incapacity maintenance. Husband cross-appeals, arguing that the trial court did not have the authority to reevaluate its original decision not to grant Wife maintenance. We conclude that the Indiana

Page 965

Code requires the trial court to make a maintenance determination at the time that the final dissolution decree is entered. We further conclude that because the trial court found in the final dissolution decree that Wife failed to carry her burden to show that she was incapacitated, it did not have the authority to revisit the issue based upon a postdissolution decision from the SSA. Accordingly, we reverse the portion of the trial court's order granting Wife maintenance and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, including all necessary recalculations.

Facts and Procedural History

Husband and Wife were married in December 1991, and had two children: T.L. born in August 1992, and M.L., born in November 1993. Husband has been employed as a registered nurse since 1993. Wife worked at Subaru Indiana Automotive for eighteen years. By October 2009, Wife had been diagnosed with lupus, fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and anxiety disorder. In October 2009, Wife went on short-term disability with her employer and then long-term disability. Wife filed an application for disability insurance benefits with the SSA. Her application was denied, and she appealed.

In August 2010, Husband filed a petition for marriage dissolution. Wife filed a counterpetition, asking for incapacity maintenance. The trial court held a hearing on the petitions, and in May 2011, issued a dissolution decree, which provided in relevant part,

10. The Court is unable to conclude from the evidence presented whether the Wife is entitled to receive maintenance from the Husband under Indiana Law. To-date, the Wife's request for Social Security Disability benefits, based on her medical records, and her claims of inability to maintain employment due to her medical condition, have been denied by the [SSA] which has had an opportunity to review all of the medical records relevant to Wife's case and make a determination based on those records. Further, the Wife testified that her own physician had concluded in April 2010 that the Wife was physically and medically able to return to work, which opinion when expressed to her employer, formed the basis for the denial of any further disability benefits [] which she had been receiving from her employer. No medical evidence has been presented on the Wife's behalf to support her request for determination that she is medically physically unable to be employed.
11. Upon a determination by the Social Security Administration that the Wife is disabled, the Court will re-evaluate issues of child support, maintenance, and educational expenses, retroactively.

Appellant's App. at 26-27.

Wife filed a motion to correct error, arguing in relevant part that the trial court erred in failing to award incapacity maintenance. The trial court issued an order granting in part and denying in part Wife's motion to correct error, which in relevant part denied her motion as to incapacity maintenance and ...


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