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Gutierrez v Guterrez a complex perspective in calculating spousal support

by | Jun 24, 2017 | Community Property Asset, Contempt, Court System, Division of Assets, Divorce, Firm News, Spousal Support

In Gutierrez v Gutierrez a Mississippi Supreme Court Case the supreme Court of Mississippi evaluated and ruled upon a very complicated spousal support and property debt and asset division family law case. The first major issue the trial court had to undertake was 2nd mortgage that was taken out soley during the marriage under Clayton Frank Gutierrez’s name.  The trial court laid out three questions it determined. Clay was the sole person who signed for the 2nd mortgage.  Trisha Guterriez did not sign for the 2nd mortgage.  In addtion the trial court ruled that the creditor did not make a claim for the enforcement of the 2nd mortgage.  The chancellor in Mississippi which would be the trial Court in California made each party responsible for the equal payment of the debt thus each spouse would assume joint responsibility for the 2nd mortgage.

Each party on appeal to the Mississippi Supreme court made a different argument based on the 2nd mortgage.  Mr. Gutierrez claimed that since he was soley liable for the note and signed for the 2nd mortgage he should be soley paying for the mortgage and not Mrs. Gutierrez. Mrs. Gutierrez appealed claiming she wanted a lump sum spousal support payment rather than monthly payments.  Each of their argument strongly relied on the outcome of how the debt and payments on the 2nd mortgage would be handled by the Mississippi Supreme court.

Mrs Gutierrez wanted that the 2nd mortgage remained community debt and jointly responsible to the both parties. If so she would gain much more ability to claim more spousal support.  Mr. Gutierrez wanted to claim it as his sole responsibility because then he would have more community debt to claim and thus less income to provide more spousal support to Mrs. Gutierrez.

In addition, on appeal the Court had to deal with the Contempt issues that were done by Mr. Gutierrez for failing to pay court ordered expenses of Mrs Gutierrez.

The complex issue of spousal support and division of marital debt and assets were the main issue the supreme court had to deal with.  The reason it was so complicated was that the deb that was to be allocated to either spouses or to one only would be intertwined intimately with any spousal support payment that either spouse would receive or pay out.

On appeal the Mississippi Supreme Court held that the Chancellor correctly applied the case law of the prior decisions dealing with the property division and allocation of debt and assets.  That prior case law held that although the division of the debts and assets was key to a determination of either a lump sum spousal support award and or monthly payments the chancellor court had discretion based on equity to award either lump sum spousal support or payments based on equity.

In addition, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that holding both parties responsible for the 2nd mortgage was correct since the mortgage was taken during the marriage and the Chancellor court did the correct analysis.