Friday, May 13, 2016

Alimony, Short For “All The Money”

Zink v. Zink, 2016 VT 46

By Amy E. Davis

Who doesn’t love a good discussion of alimony, or, as we in Vermont call it, “spousal maintenance”? Spousal maintenance is money you pay your ex-spouse so she (or he) can continue on in the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. It’s a hot topic for us divorce attorneys, and is the focus of this case as well.

Husband and Wife divorced in 2007 and agreed that Husband would pay Wife $1800 per month permanently (that means forever). In January 2015, Wife filed a motion for contempt because Husband had not paid her and said he was no longer going to pay her. Husband opposed the motion and filed his own to modify his monthly obligation claiming that he could no longer pay the court-ordered amount of $1800, and that since the final divorce, the parties had agreed to reduce the payments. Husband also argued that both parties’ finances had changed since the divorce.

The lower court found the following: Husband is a self-employed truck driver, and when the parties’ divorced, he lived in his truck and had minimal expenses. Husband remarried and moved in with his new wife. Husband and his new wife, with their combined incomes, can meet their basic needs and have about $250.00 left over each week. Husband also told the court that he did not understand what “permanent” mean, and he thought he was just trying to keep Wife, who was unemployed at the time of the divorce, in their condominium. Since the divorce, Wife sold the condominium, got a job with the University of Vermont, receives retirement funds monthly, and money from Social Security Income monthly.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Coerced or Compliant?

State v. Reynolds, 2016 VT 43

By Andrew Delaney

This is an interlocutory appeal. An interlocutory appeal happens when there’s a trial court ruling that will have a big impact on a case and it’s a big enough question for the SCOV to weigh in during the middle of things. That’s grossly oversimplified, but, hey, that’s kinda what we do here.

Mr. Reynolds “is charged with four felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and one felony count of aggravated sexual assault on a victim younger than thirteen.” At the time of the charged conduct, defendant was sixty seven; the alleged victim, his neighbor Z.Z., was seven.

Defendant filed a motion to suppress his statements made to the police, arguing that they “were the product of police coercion and thus taken in violation of his constitutional rights.” The trial court granted the motion after a hearing. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Park Permitting Pushback

In re Waterfront Park, 2016 VT 39

By Andrew Delaney

Burlington sought to amend its Act 250 permit for the Waterfront Park on Lake Champlain. Neighbor challenged Burlington’s right to do so. The Environmental Division granted summary judgment and ruled the Burlington was entitled to seek to amend its permit. Let's take a quick look back.

In 1990, Burlington got a land-use permit for the Waterfront Park. Events were held. In ’93, Burlington sought to amend its permit, and attempted to delegate “timing, duration, and frequency of events and sound levels,” to the Parks and Recreation Commission (I hear there’s a sitcom about this). At any rate, the district commission granted the amendment and imposed 26 conditions, which related to, among other things, maximum sound levels and how to measure them, as well as timing and frequency of events at the park.

In 2008, neighbor bought her property, which is right next door. She researched before she bought and relied on the timing-and-frequency-and-maximum-sound-levels provisions in the permit. She knew there would be festivals and events, but also knew they’d be limited by the conditions. She’s significantly impacted by the events at the Park—“loud noise for extended periods of time, significant vehicular and pedestrian traffic congestion, and limits on her ability to sleep, spend time outdoors, open her windows, and enjoy her property.”