Ronald J. Nicholson, Appellant,
Paula Ann Nicholson, Appellee.
District Court, Ogden Department The Honorable Joseph M. Bean
M. Barker and Jeffrey A. Callister, Attorneys for Appellant.
Jennifer Neeley, Attorney for Appellee.
Michele M. Christiansen authored this Opinion, in which
Judges Gregory K. Orme and David N. Mortensen concurred.
Ronald J. Nicholson appeals the district court's
termination of alimony he had been receiving from his ex-wife
Paula Ann Thomas, formerly known as Paula Ann Nicholson. The
district court determined that modification of alimony was
warranted by Thomas's retirement and that termination of
alimony was proper because Nicholson's monthly income
exceeded his reasonable monthly needs. We conclude that the
court adequately considered the factors required by statute
and therefore affirm.
Nicholson and Thomas married in 1975, separated in 1999, and
filed for divorce in 2003. After Nicholson and Thomas
stipulated to a settlement, a decree of divorce was entered
in 2008, with retroactive effect to 2007. Under that
settlement, Nicholson received one parcel of real property,
the proceeds from the sale of a second parcel of real
property, and three vehicles; Thomas in turn received one
parcel of real property subject to a mortgage and three other
vehicles. Thomas also agreed to pay $850 per month in alimony
to Nicholson for a period equal to the length of the
marriage-32 years. The parties agreed that "alimony will
be terminated upon [Nicholson's] remarriage or
cohabitation, or otherwise terminated or modified upon a
material change of circumstances, including without
limitation the parties' retirement[.]" The
stipulation was incorporated into the decree of divorce.
Upon her retirement in 2014, Thomas sought modification or
termination of her alimony obligation. After a two-day
hearing, the district court ruled that modification of the
divorce decree was appropriate, found that Nicholson's
expenses did not exceed his income, and modified the divorce
decree to eliminate the alimony obligation. Nicholson timely
AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Nicholson first contends that the district court erred by
failing to make or enter adequate findings regarding
Thomas's ability to pay alimony. Where an appellant
asserts that the district court's findings are legally
inadequate to support its ruling, we review for correctness.
See Fish v. Fish, 2016 UT App 125, ¶ 5, 379
P.3d 882; Robinson v. Robinson, 2010 UT App 96,
¶ 7, 232 P.3d 1081.
Nicholson further contends that the district court erred
"in terminating alimony based on [his] current needs and
ability to provide for those current needs when [his] needs
and ability to provide have not changed since the time of the
divorce." Insofar as this is a challenge to the district
court's findings of fact, we review for clear error;
where the district court's ruling relies on its
interpretation of the law, we review for correctness. See
Olsen v. Olsen, 2007 UT App 296, ¶ 7, 169 P.3d 765.
The primary purpose of an alimony award, at least an initial
one, is to "enable the receiving spouse to maintain as
nearly as possible the standard of living enjoyed during the
marriage and to prevent the spouse from becoming a public
charge." Paffel v. Paffel, 732 P.2d 96, 100
(Utah 1986); accord Connell v. Connell, 2010 UT App
139, ¶ 9, 233 P.3d 836. To achieve this end, the Utah
Code requires a court to consider several factors when
calculating the appropriate amount of alimony to award:
court shall consider at least the following factors in
(i) the financial condition and needs of the recipient
(ii) the recipient's earning capacity or ability to