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Campbell v. Campbell

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 31, 2019

Dorothy Campbell, Appellant,
Mark Reed Campbell, Appellee

          Appeal from the Boone Circuit Court The Honorable J. Jeffrey Edens, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 06C01-1609-DR-587

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT James E. Ayers Wernle, Ristine & Ayers Crawfordsville, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Ralph E. Dowling Dowling Law Office Muncie, Indiana

          BAKER, JUDGE.

         [¶1]Dorothy Campbell appeals the trial court's order dissolving her marriage to Mark Campbell. Dorothy argues that the trial court erroneously denied her request for spousal maintenance and erroneously valued one of the parties' assets. Finding no error, we affirm.


         [¶2] Dorothy and Mark were married in 1991; no children were born of the marriage. Both parties worked until Dorothy became disabled in 1996. Dorothy has not worked since that time. Mark provided the sole financial support for the couple until Dorothy began receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) payments in 2001.[1] Dorothy's SSD arrearage payment was used to buy furnishings, electronics, and appliances for the house they built in 2001. Mark has continued to work and earned $23.01 per hour at the time of the hearing.

         [¶3] In the spring of 2016, the parties separated, sold the marital residence, and paid off marital debts. Dorothy filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in May 2016, requesting spousal maintenance due to her disability and an equitable division of the marital property. The trial court held a hearing on August 25, 2017, and issued its dissolution decree on November 9, 2017. In the decree, the trial court denied Dorothy's request for spousal maintenance; valued the parties' Buick Enclave at $21, 143.00; and divided the marital estate equally, requiring an equalization payment from Mark to Dorothy. Dorothy filed a motion to correct error regarding spousal maintenance and the valuation of the Buick Enclave; the trial court denied the motion. Dorothy now appeals.

         Discussion and Decision

         I. Spousal Maintenance

         [¶4] Dorothy first argues that the trial court erred by denying her request for spousal maintenance. The trial court may award spousal maintenance upon finding that a spouse is incapacitated and her ability to support herself is materially affected. Ind. Code § 31-15-7-2(1). Findings are required by statute to support an award of incapacity maintenance, see I.C. § 31-15-7-1, but there is no corresponding requirement that findings be entered when incapacity maintenance is denied. Thus, the trial court's findings here are "special findings." Ind. Trial Rule 52(A)(3); Cannon v. Cannon, 758 N.E.2d 524, 526 (Ind. 2001) (determining, in reviewing findings from which trial court concluded wife was not entitled to incapacity maintenance, that findings supporting denial would be treated as special findings). We will not set aside special findings unless they are clearly erroneous. Alexander v. Alexander, 980 N.E.2d 878, 880 (Ind.Ct.App. 2012). The weight of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses are matters for the trial court to assess. Id.

         [¶5] There are two ways in which a party to a divorce may be obligated to make spousal maintenance payments: either the parties agree to maintenance in a negotiated settlement agreement or the court may order maintenance payments in limited circumstances. Palmby v. Palmby, 10 N.E.3d 580, 583 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014). One of these circumstances occurs when the trial court finds "a spouse to be physically or mentally incapacitated to the extent that the ability of the incapacitated spouse to support himself or herself is materially affected[.]" I.C. § 31-15-7-2(1). If the trial court makes that finding, it may order maintenance. Id. Because such an award is designed to help provide for the incapacitated spouse's sustenance and support, the essential inquiry is whether the spouse can support herself. Alexander, 980 N.E.2d at 881. An award of incapacity maintenance is within the trial court's discretion. Barton v. Barton, 47 N.E.3d 368, 375 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015).

         [¶6] It is undisputed that Dorothy was seventy-three years old at the time of the hearing and has an eighth-grade education. Moreover, while the parties may not agree upon her precise diagnoses, there is no real dispute that she has had years of serious medical problems and has been considered to be disabled and entitled to SSD since 1997.

         [¶7] The trial court made the following findings regarding Dorothy's ...

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