Attorneys for Appellee
Anthony M. Campo & Associates
Appellant (Petitioner below),
GERALD W. CANNON, Appellee (Respondent below ).
) Supreme Court No.
) Court of Appeals No.
November 16, 2001
At the specific level, Chief Justice Shepard pointed out that in Indiana a
court may o
rder spousal maintenance in three circumstances:
(1) Incapacity maintenance: where 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." Ind. Code § 31-15-7-2(1) (1998). See footnote
(2) Caregiver maintenance: where the trial court finds that a spouse must forgo employment in order to care for a child with a physical or mental incapacity. Id. § 31-15-7-2(2). See footnote
(3) Rehabilitative maintenance: where the trial court finds that a spouse needs support while acquiring sufficient education or training to get an appropriate job. Id. § 31-15-7-2(3). See footnote
Voigt, 670 N.E.2d at 1276-77.
At the more general level,
Voigt stands for the proposition that, in the
absence of an agreement between the parties, the trial court's authority in ordering
maintenance is restricted and limited to these three statutory options. Id. at
1276. "Where none of these circumstances exist, a court may not order
maintenance without the agreement of the parties. This policy reflects a clear
legislative intent to retain fairly strict limits on the power of courts to
order maintenance without the consent of the parties." Id. at 1277 (citations
Here Joyce seeks incapacity maintenance. As such,
Voigt informs us that determining
Joyce's claim to incapacity maintenance must be evaluated by giving a strict if
not literal interpretation to the language of the statute. That is, the
trial court could only award incapacity maintenance if it found Joyce to be
physically or mentally incapacitated to the extent that her ability to support herself
was materially affected. And, although the language of the statute appears to
give the trial court some discretion not to award maintenance even where it
makes such finding, we believe the strict construction principles applicable in this area
narrowly limit that discretion as well.
Second, the trial court found there to be some evidence that Joyce had
been able to earn some income by conducting garage sales, although it was
difficult, if not imposs
ible, to document her earnings.
From these two findings, the trial court found that the evidence as to
whether Joyce was disabled to the point that her ability to support herself
is materially affected is inconcl
usive. (R. at 22-23.) On appeal, Joyce
argues that the trial court's findings as to her depression were uncontroverted and
that the evidence relating to garage sales all predated the medical evidence as
to incapacity. While we acknowledge these arguments, we conclude that they go
to the relative weight and credibility of the evidence and witnesses at trial,
matters within the purview of the trial court. Because the trial court's
findings in this regard are not clearly erroneous, we sustain its conclusion that
Joyce is not entitled to incapacity maintenance.
The Court of Appeals referred to these three additional findings in its opinion.
ecause a maintenance award is not mandatory, the Court of Appeals said,
[u]nder these circumstances, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion
in denying [Joyces] request for spousal maintenance. Cannon, 729 N.E.2d at 1048.
We agree with the Court of Appeals that, given the language of the
statute, a maint
enance award is not mandatory. But as we pointed out
at the outset of this discussion, the Legislature has narrowly circumscribed the authority
of courts to award spousal maintenance. While such factors as payments made
by one spouse to another pursuant to the terms of provisional orders and
depletion of marital assets are appropriate considerations in dividing the marital pot, see
Ind. Code §31-15-7-5 (1998), we believe that the statutory scheme for spousal maintenance
does not admit of such considerations. Where a trial court finds that
a spouse is physically or mentally incapacitated to the extent that the ability
of that spouse to support himself or herself is materially affected, the trial
court should normally award incapacity maintenance in the absence of extenuating circumstances that
directly relate to the criteria for awarding incapacity maintenance.
Because the trial court here found, irrespective of the provisional payment and depl
of asset issues, that Joyce had not demonstrated an entitlement to incapacity maintenance,
no reversal or remand is required.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.