James O. Watkins, Jr., Esq.
Fairmont, West Virginia
Attorney for the Appellee
Susan K. McLaughlin, Esq.
McLaughlin and Curry
Fairmont, West Virginia
Attorney for the Appellant
The Opinion of the Court was delivered PER CURIAM.
CHIEF JUSTICE BROTHERTON did not participate.
RETIRED JUSTICE MILLER sitting by temporary assignment.
"'Questions relating to alimony and to the maintenance
and custody of the children are within the sound discretion of the
court and its action with respect to such matters will not be
disturbed on appeal unless it clearly appears that such discretion
has been abused.' Syllabus, Nichols v. Nichols, 160 W.Va. 514, 236
S.E.2d 36 (1977)." Syllabus Point 2, Wood v. Wood, 190 W. Va. 445,
438 S.E.2d 788 (1993).
Ruth Ann Jordan appeals the final order of the Circuit
Court of Marion County that granted her a divorce from Michael
Thomas Jordan, Jr., and awarded her $1 per year in alimony. On
appeal, Mrs. Jordan maintains that given the parties' earnings and
responsibilities for marital debt, the circuit court awarded her an
inadequate amount of alimony. Because the record does not show
that the circuit court abused his discretion in awarding alimony,
we affirm the circuit court's decision.
After twenty-two years of marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Jordan
divorced on December 1, 1992 on the grounds of irreconcilable
differences. The Jordans have four children; two are emancipated
and the remaining two, twin boys born in 1982, are in Mrs. Jordan's
custody, with reasonable visitation by Mr. Jordan. Mrs. Jordan is
employed as a teacher in Marion County and in 1990 earned
$23,888.88 with a net monthly income of $1,288. Mr. Jordan is
employed as a coal miner with Peabody Coal and in 1991 earned
$48,290.90 with a net monthly income of $2,870.00 considering
Mr. Jordan was ordered to pay $657.32 in child support
under the state formula guidelines. Mrs. Jordan and the children
can live in the marital home until the twins reach eighteen years. The marital home, valued at $50,000, is subject to a $12,000
mortgage, a $10,000 home equity loan and a $1000 home improvement
loan, which have the following monthly payments, respectively:
$257.77, $195.78 and $45.00. Mr. Jordan was ordered to pay the
house related loans, which total $498.55 per month. When the twins
reach eighteen years, the marital home is to be sold and the
proceeds divided equally, except that Mr. Jordan is to be credited
with one-half of his payments. The parties are to be equally
responsible for the martial home's taxes, insurance and major
The circuit court ordered the following division of
parties' martial consumer debts: Mr. Jordan's debt responsibility
is $2,075, with monthly payments of $170.00; and, Mrs. Jordan's
debt responsibility is $14,200, with monthly payments of $450.47.
Mrs. Jordan's consumer debt includes her automobile's outstanding
loan of $12,000 that has a $350.47 monthly payment. Each party
retained his and her respective pension funds with the disparity
offset by the additional $3,700 in Mrs. Jordan's automobile loan
that was used to pay off the debt on Mr. Jordan's automobile.
Mr. Jordan was awarded the 1987 Ford, valued at $1,000,
a $1,500 certificate of deposit, the parties' savings of $269 and
his United Mine Workers of America pension with a present value of
$11,348.52. Mrs. Jordan was awarded the 1990 Pontiac, with a net value of about $2,000See footnote 1 and her Board of Education pension valued at
Except for the family law master's recommendation against
any alimony, the circuit court adopted the family law master's
recommendations and also awarded Mrs. Jordan $1 per year in
alimony. The minimal amount of alimony was awarded because Mrs.
Jordan was found to have "sufficient income from her employment,
the payment by the Plaintiff of child support and the mortgage and
related payments . . . [to] equalize the difference in the incomes
of the parties."
On appeal, Mrs. Jordan maintains that the circuit court
should have awarded her additional alimony because her and the
twins' financial needs exceed her expected income and the
allocation of debt allows Mr. Jordan to recoup his marital-house-
related expenses but affords her no such advantage.
"Questions relating to alimony and to the maintenance and custody of the children are within the sound discretion of the court and its action with respect to such matters will not be disturbed on appeal unless it clearly appears that such discretion has been abused." Syl., Nichols v. Nichols, 160 W.Va. 514, 236 S.E.2d 36 (1977). In accord Syl. pt. 2, Wood v. Wood, 190 W. Va. 445, 438 S.E.2d 788 (1993); Syl. pt. 8, Wyant v. Wyant, 184 W. Va. 434, 400 S.E.2d 869 (1990); Syl., Luff v. Luff, 174 W.Va. 734, 329 S.E.2d 100 (1985). The circuit court's discretion in determining the amount of alimony is guided by W. Va. Code 48-2-16(b) , which lists various factors to be considered to reach "a fair and equitable grant of alimony."See footnote 2 In Syl. pt. 2, in part, Yanero v. Yanero, 171 W. Va. 88, 297 S.E.2d 863 (1982), we noted that this Code section requires "a circuit court to consider the financial needs of the parties, their incomes and income earning abilities and their estates and the income produced by their estates in determining the amount of alimony to be awarded. . . ." In accord Wood, supra, 190 W. Va. at 455, 438 S.E.2d at 798.
In this case, Mrs. Jordan submitted a monthly budget
showing expenses of $2,340 or $400 more than her expected income
from salary and child support. Mrs. Jordan's budget was based on
maintaining the family in its pre-separation life style. Mr.
Jordan notes that some of Mrs. Jordan's budgeted expenses were for
their adult daughter who lives with Mrs. Jordan (for example, $400
for the daughter's annual car insurance). Mr. Jordan also
maintains that although their pre-separation life style was
supported by two incomes, two separate households now must be
supported. Mr. Jordan notes that the martial assets and debts were
equitably divided and that the parties enjoy basically the same net
In this case, the record shows that until the twins turn eighteen, Mrs. Jordan has a monthly income of $1,945 from her salary ($1,288) and child support ($657). After deducting her monthly consumer debt ($100) and automobile loan ($350) payments, Mrs. Jordan has approximately $1,495 per month to support herself and the twins. Mr. Jordan earns about $2,870 per month and after deducting his child support ($657), house-related payments ($498) and consumer debt payments ($170), Mr. Jordan has approximately $1,555 per month to support himself.
Mrs. Jordan maintains that the debt allocation favored
Mr. Jordan because while he receives one-half credit for his house related payments, no such advantage accrues to her automobile loan.
Mr. Jordan notes that the automobile loan was allocated to Mrs.
Jordan in part to balance the parties' pension benefits.
Based on our examination of the record we find that
although the parties have relatively equal net incomes, Mrs.
Jordan's housing costs are minor because of Mr. Jordan's payments;
whereas, Mr. Jordan must pay his own housing costs, even if he
lives with a relative. We also note that Mrs. Jordan's assumption
of the automobile loan was in part to balance her retention of her
superior pension benefits. In addition, the record indicates that
Mr. Jordan replaced the 1987 Ford and assumed an automobile loan
with a $212 monthly payment.
Given this case's circumstances, we find that the circuit
court did not abuse his discretion in awarding Mrs. Jordan $1 per
year in alimony to preserve Mrs. Jordan's right to seek a
modification, if necessary.
For the above stated reasons, the decision of the Circuit
Court of Marion County is affirmed.
Footnote: 1 In 1992 Mr. Jordan estimated that the 1990 Pontiac, which cost $15,000 new, had a value between $10,000 to $12,000. Mr. Jordan noted that the car was subject to a loan with a $12,000 unpaid balance.
Footnote: 2 W. Va. Code 48-2-16(b)  provides, in pertinent part:
The court shall consider the following factors
in determining the amount of alimony, child
support or separate maintenance, if any, to be
ordered under the provisions of sections
thirteen and fifteen [§§ 48-2-13 and 48-2-15]
of this article, as a supplement to or in lieu
of the separation agreement:
(1) The length of time the parties were married;
(2) The period of time during the marriage when the parties actually lived together as husband and wife;
(3) The present employment income and other recurring earnings of each party from any source;
(4) The income-earning abilities of each of the parties, based upon such factors as educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market and custodial responsibilities for children;
(5) The distribution of marital property to be made under the terms of a separation agreement or by the court under the provisions of section thirty-two [§ 48-2-32] of this article, insofar as the distribution affects or will affect the earnings of the parties and their ability to pay or their need to receive alimony, child support or separate
(6) The ages and the physical, mental and emotional condition of each party;
(7) The educational qualifications of each party;
(8) The likelihood that the party seeking alimony, child support or separate maintenance can substantially increase his or her income-earning abilities within a reasonable time by acquiring additional education or training;
(9) The anticipated expense of obtaining the education and training described in subdivision (8) above;
(10) The costs of educating minor children;
(11) The costs of providing health care for each of the parties and their minor children;
(12) The tax consequences to each party;
(13) The extent to which it would be inappropriate for a party, because said party will be the custodian of a minor child or children, to seek employment outside the home;
(14) The financial need of each party;
(15) The legal obligations of each party to support himself or herself and to support any other person; and
(16) Such other factors as the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable grant of alimony, child support or separate maintenance.