In the Matter of the Marriage of HEIDI K. KAPLAN, Appellant, and DONALD C. KAPLAN, Respondent.
Kaplan appeals the division of property, award of
maintenance, and child support calculation. She argues that
the trial court failed to recognize the long-term marriage
and to allow her to maintain her predissolution economic
status, improperly imputed income to her for child support,
and failed to award her attorney fees. We reverse the trial
court's decision to impute income for child support. We
affirm on all other issues.
Kaplan and Heidi Kaplan married on October 7,
1990. After a marriage of 25 years, Donald and
Heidi separated on July 20, 2015. Donald filed a dissolution
action on July 6, 2015, in Harris County, Texas. Heidi filed
her petition for dissolution in the King County Superior
Court on July 15, 2015. After concluding that Washington had
jurisdiction over the dissolution, the Texas court dismissed
Donald's petition without an award of costs to either
party. A five-day bench trial in King County Superior Court
began on June 20, 2016.
time of the dissolution, Donald was a business development
manager at Phillips 66. Donald had worked for Phillips 66, or
its predecessor company, since 1990. Donald's career
required the family to move four times for different
positions. The family had lived in Seattle since 2001. Donald
accepted a promotion in 2014 and transferred to Houston.
Heidi and their two children remained in Seattle. At the time
of trial, Donald's gross monthly salary was $19, 802
monthly and $237, 624 annually. Including his average annual
bonus, Donald's annual salary was approximately $387, 000
2014, Donald and Heidi discussed Donald's desire to
retire after their youngest daughter, Sophie, graduated from
high school. During trial, Donald testified that he intended
to retire in roughly four years. Donald also testified he had
concerns about his continued employment at Phillips 66. Brent
Longnecker, a consultant who advises energy companies in
strategy, governance, and executive pay testified on behalf
of Donald. Longnecker testified that Donald's position in
business development and acquisitions was at risk because oil
companies are less inclined to make capital expenditures and
expand their business.
graduated from Syracuse University in 1985 with a Bachelor of
Science degree in speech communications and rhetorical
studies. After graduating, Heidi pursued a career in product
development and merchandising until their older daughter,
Jillian, was born in 1996. The Kaplan's second daughter,
Sophie, was born in 1999. Heidi remained at home to take care
of Jillian and Sophie from 1996 until the time of trial in
June 2016. At the time of the trial, Jillian was 20 years old
and in college in California; Sophie was 17 and a high school
senior in Seattle. Over the years, Heidi volunteered at
Jillian and Sophie's schools, including acting as
president of the parent teacher association. In doing so, she
organized fundraisers and events, engaged in community
outreach, and managed volunteers. Heidi also attended
workshops and courses, such as a grant writing course and an
art history course.
trial, Heidi argued that she was at the time unemployable.
David Goodenough, a vocational counselor, testified in
support of this contention. Goodenough assessed both
Heidi's immediate employability and her long-term career
capabilities as of May 2016. Goodenough offered his expert
opinion that Heidi was not currently employable except at a
"low end" job. Goodenough testified that Heidi
required retraining to secure marketable skills, a process
that would require time.
trial court entered findings of fact, conclusions of law, and
a final dissolution decree on October 25, 2016. As for the
distribution of property, the court found, and the parties do
not dispute, that the overall value of the estate was $5.2
million. Donald asked the court to effectively award him 50
percent of the community property. Heidi asked the court to
effectively award her 60 percent of the community property.
The trial court concluded that "[w]hen the Court
considers the nature and extent of all the property, the
duration of the marriage and the financial position of each
party, it finds that a fair and equitable division is the
allocation of 55% of the assets to Ms. Kaplan and 45% to Mr.
trial court next addressed maintenance for Heidi. The trial
court found that Donald's salary was likely to stay flat
or experience only small increases and that future bonuses
were unlikely. The trial court also found that Donald hoped
to retire in 2020. Heidi requested maintenance in the amount
of $18, 850 per month for 12 years, until Donald was 66 years
old in 2028. Donald agreed that Heidi should receive
maintenance, but asked the court to order maintenance for 5
years at $9, 500 per month. After finding that Donald would
continue working for roughly four more years, that Heidi was
healthy, well educated, and had maintained a basic skill set,
and that both parties' monthly expenses were
approximately $10, 000, the trial court awarded maintenance
to Heidi at $10, 000 per month for 6 years, until August
2022. The court also noted that Heidi may "choose to
enroll in an education program," but stated the court
"is not specifically awarding maintenance in
consideration of any such possible program."
parties agreed to a parenting plan. The court entered a child
support order imputing a monthly income of $2, 714 after
finding Heidi was "voluntarily underemployed" under
RCW 26.19.071(6). The trial court declined to award fees.
Effect of Long-Term Marriage
primary argument is that the trial court erred, as a matter
of law, in failing to place the parties in roughly the
equivalent financial position they had before the
dissolution. We disagree.
argument appears based on two incorrect premises. First,
Heidi repeatedly asserts that the trial court "must
endeavor to place the parties in roughly the equivalent
financial position they had before the dissolution after the
dissolution." Heidi offers no legal authority for this
assertion. Upon dissolution, the trial court must provide for
a just and equitable distribution of the parties' assets,
liabilities, and income. The predissolution economic
circumstances of the parties is just one factor that the
trial court must consider. RCW 26.09.080(4) (disposition of
property); RCW 26.09.090(1)(c) (maintenance). Heidi is not
"entitled to maintain her former standard of living as a
matter of right." Cleaver v. Cleaver, 10
Wn.App. 14, 20, 516 P.2d 508 (1973).
also asserts that in distributing assets and awarding
maintenance, the trial court must follow the
"overarching premise" that because of their
long-term marriage, the parties must be placed in roughly
equivalent financial positions for the rest of their lives.
Heidi's argument is based on an overly narrow reading of
the statement made by this court in Marriage of
Rockwell, 141 Wn.App. 235, 243, 170 P.3d 572 (2007),
that in long-term marriages of over 25 years "the trial
court's objective is to place the parties in roughly
equal financial positions for the rest of their lives."
affirmed the trial court's unequal distribution of
community property after a long-term marriage. The trial
court did not, however, limit its consideration to the length
of the marriage or conduct a mathematical analysis to ensure
equal financial positions for the rest of the parties'
lives. Instead, the trial court examined a variety of factors
in reaching its decision to award an unequal distribution. As
this court explained,
This requires considering the combination of the division of
property and the expected income and earnings of the parties.
And, where one spouse is older, semi-retired and dealing with
ill health, and the other spouse is employable, the court
does not abuse its discretion in ordering an unequal division
of community property. Peter was younger, in good health and
employable at a substantial wage. Moreover, substantial
evidence showed that Carmen was retired, older and in poor
health. Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its
discretion when it compared Peter's age, health and
employability (and thereby, future earning capacity) against
Carmen's as a basis for its 60/40 split of the community
Rockwell, 141 Wn.App. at 249.
recent case, Division Three of this court considered and
rejected an argument similar to Heidi's. In Marriage
of Doneen, 197 Wn.App. 941, 950, 391 P.3d 594, 599
(2017), review denied, 188 Wn.2d 1018, 396 P.3d 337
(2017), the wife appealed the trial court's property
division that left her with less than 50 percent of the
marital assets. She argued that under Rockwell, the
court was required to equalize the financial circumstances of
the parties because they had a long-term marriage.
Doneen, 197 Wn.App. at 945. The court rejected this
argument, holding that the objective established in
Rockwell "was permissive in nature, not
mandatory, in nature." Doneen, 197 Wn.App. at
950. In affirming, the court noted that the trial court
properly "declined to utilize an inflexible ...