Case Caption: Royson Fabien v. Angelica FabienCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2015-0064Date: 09/21/2018Author: Swan, Ive Arlington Citation: Summary: In a divorce proceeding an order of the Superior Court requiring the husband to pay $600 monthly in alimony for ten years was based on erroneous factual findings and the court abused its discretion. Under 16 V.I.C. § 109(a)(3) alimony may be awarded to a party in need thereof, but here the Superior Court appears to have considered only the parties’ income and expenses, when it may also consider their potential for future earnings based on educational background, employment history, and other relevant factors. Because the wife requested alimony, she bore the burden of substantiating her claim of need and that the husband has the financial ability to pay for her purported living expenses, but in this case the husband’s ability to pay is unsubstantiated by the evidence presented. The manner in which the Superior Court computed the wife’s monthly expenses was also clearly flawed. Inclusion of monthly expenses relating to the wife’s children in determining an award of alimony was an abuse of discretion since separate statutory provisions govern alimony and child support. Because the Superior Court failed to explain and articulate how its findings of fact relating to alimony factors led to the award, meaningful review is not possible and it accordingly abused its discretion. Inclusion of a monthly car payment in determining the alimony over a 10-year period was also an abuse of discretion since the car would be paid off in only one year. The Superior Court further abused its discretion with regard to marital funds in the parties’ joint savings account, since the wife has an equitable interest in money that she withdrew and loaned to another person, and the court had the power under 16 V.I.C. § 109(a)(7) to equitably distribute the account, in which the husband also had an interest. Its failure to adjudicate the parties’ rights to the funds was an abuse of discretion. This case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Attachment: Open Document or Opinion