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Supreme Court Reverses and Remands Final Divorce Order

In Walter Lourie v.Sharlee Lourie, 2016 VT 57 (May 13, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court reversed and remanded a final divorce order.

Issue: Walter Lourie (husband), represented by Langrock attorneys William B. Miller, Jr. and Erin Miller Heins, appealed from the family division of the superior court’s final divorce order, arguing that the court did not consider relevant statutory factors before incorporating a pretrial separation agreement into the order, that the court erred in awarding Sharlee Lourie (wife) an arrears judgment, and that the court abused its discretion in awarding wife the bulk of their marital estate along with a maintenance award.

Holding: The Court held that the family court should have considered the relevant statutory factors in determining whether the pretrial separation agreement was fair and equitable at the time of the final divorce hearing, and remanded the case back to the family court to consider the statutory factors before determining whether the agreement should be incorporated into the final order. The Court also held that the family court, on remand, had to separate the spousal maintenance amount from any child support obligation that husband might have. Further, the Court held that the family court’s arrears judgment had to be vacated and remanded to allow the family court to recalculate the debt owed to wife based on when the pretrial separation agreement became “unfair or inequitable.” Finally, the Court reversed the property award, because the family court could adjust it based on the arrears determination.

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