Husband and Wife were married in 2001. Husband was a city firefighter and Wife was a secretary for a real estate agency. At the time of their marriage, Husband was 53 years old and Wife was 51 years old.
In 2005, Husband was ready to retire, and urged Wife to retire with him. (Their ages were 57 and 55.) Because of his career, he had earned a full pension, but Wife’s career did not provide for pensions. Her only retirement income would be from social security when she reached age 62. However, Husband convinced Wife to retire with him, so that they could travel and enjoy their free time together.
In 2014, their marriage ended. At that time, Wife’s social security income was less than $800 per month, and Husband’s monthly pension was over $10,000 per month. Wife requested the court grant her spousal support from Husband, and Husband requested the court order Wife to get a job to support herself. The court stated: “In this matter, the Court finds that [Wife] needs spousal support to help her meet her financial needs as well as to put her as close as possible to the marital standard of living. This Court does not believe that it is appropriate to impute income to [Wife]. No evidence was presented which would support an income to her, or that there were jobs available for which she qualified and could earn an income. Furthermore, she is retired, just as [Husband] is retired, with both of them beyond retirement age. The parties have a right to retire, and they did that…” The court further stated, “Their retirement has been part of the marital standard of living since well before the dissolution of marriage was filed, and [Wife] is not now going to be thrown out of retirement. For these same reasons, this Court will also not be issuing a Gavron warning to [Wife].”The court awarded Wife $4,000 per month in spousal support…” ( A Gavron warning is a warning a judge gives to a divorcing spouse, that although spousal support is granted, it is only temporary, and that spouse will have to get a job and support him/herself.)
The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court: “…being of retirement age outweighs the ‘self-supporting’ factor. In order to determine this, we need to understand what is meant by the ‘age’ factor in the [Family Code] statute. When interpreting a statute, we begin with the words in the statute, applying their usual and ordinary meaning and construing them in context. …The plain language of the statute reflects the family court is to consider ‘[t]he age and health of the parties’ when ordering spousal support… For the age factor to have meaning, the family court would need to consider whether the parties are young and therefore presumably more likely to work and earn a living wage, or whether the parties are older and perhaps no longer working. In other words, the plain language of the statute reflects age is a factor in determining spousal support. The point of considering age when determining spousal support, in part, is that there comes an age when people commonly stop working. The age of 65 is the customary retirement age.”