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Burns v. Burns

April 28, 1997

BETTY L. BURNS, RESPONDENT,
v.
THOMAS M. BURNS, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 80-3-04671-7. Date filed: 04/18/95.

Authored by Ann L. Ellington. Concurring: Walter E. Webster, Faye C. Kennedy.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellington

ELLINGTON, J. -- This is an action by a former husband seeking reimbursement of over 10 years of monthly maintenance payments in the amount of $1,000 each which he made to his former wife after she had remarried. He claims that because his obligation to pay maintenance terminated as a matter of law upon his wife's remarriage, he is entitled to reimbursement. We find that the husband was induced to make the payments after his wife's remarriage solely by a mistake of law and that the wife's claim to the payments during this period was an honest claim.

Consequently, we affirm the trial court's order denying reimbursement.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Thomas Burns and Betty Burns (hereafter "Thomas" and "Betty" respectively) were divorced in December, 1982, after 35 years of marriage.

The decree of dissolution provides, in pertinent part:

Commencing on the first day of the month following the entry of this decree Thomas Michael Burns shall pay to Betty Louise Burns the sum of $1,000 and he shall pay a like sum on the first day of each following month to Betty Louise Burns for the life of Betty Louise Burns as and for spousal maintenance (alimony) and the provision for spousal maintenance shall not be subject to modification.

The decree does not provide for termination of maintenance on remarriage. Betty remarried in November, 1983, and is now known as Betty Cook. It is undisputed that Thomas was aware of Betty's remarriage.

Thomas continued to pay maintenance payments after Betty's remarriage until December, 1994.

In February, 1995, Thomas moved for an order terminating his obligation to pay maintenance and for a judgment reimbursing him for his maintenance payments from July, 1983 through December, 1994.

On March 7, 1995, a commissioner of the Superior Court granted Thomas' motion for termination of maintenance but denied his motion for a judgment reimbursing him for maintenance payments made since Betty's remarriage.

The commissioner found as follows:

(1) Both parties bargained for a maintenance provision which they believed and accepted as requiring maintenance payments to the Petitioner for the rest of her life, no matter what, (2) the Petitioner married after the herein dissolution and the Respondent had knowledge of the marriage, (3) the ...


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