Trial court reversed on failure to enter findings of fact regarding imputed income and child support obligations: MCKINNEY V. MCKINNEY (COA 6/13/2008)

FAMILY LAW:  Child support, findings of fact; trial court made no findings of fact re imputed income and thus reversed; COA requests SC to amend rules

DATE: 6/13/2008

Ex-Husband appealed from TC’s order imputing to him a monthly income of $8,000 for the purposes of establishing child support in accordance with the Kentucky Child Support Guidelines.

Ex-Husband and Ex-Wife entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement that explicitly reserved the issues of child support expenses. After hearing, TC entered an order finding that Ex-Husband earned income from part-time work as an attorney but primarily by "flipping" real estate, imputing income to Ex-Husband of $8,000 per month and ordering child support in accordance with the Kentucky Child Support Guidelines. However, TC did not parse out its calculation of Ex-Husband’s imputed $8,000 monthly income. Ex-Husband subsequently filed a CR 59 motion to alter, amend or vacate, as well as a motion pursuant to CR 52.02 requesting additional findings of fact regarding the imputation of $8,000 monthly income. TC denied the motion for additional findings and this appeal ensued.

Ex-Husband argued that there was no evidence submitted to support TC’s imputation of $8,000 in monthly income and that, at a minimum, he was entitled to additional findings as to how TC arrived at the $8,000 figure. Ex-Wife responds that TC, in imputing income to both parties, opted to calculate child support based on the "potential income" of each party and that TC was not required to segregate Ex-Husband’s potential earnings as an attorney from those generated by the real estate. CA found that the standard of review for appellate courts in child support matters is abuse of discretion.

CR 52.01 provides that in all actions tried upon the facts without a jury, the trial court shall find the facts specifically and state separately its conclusions of law thereon and render an appropriate judgment. Thus, the issue herein is whether the TC’s omitted finding involves a matter which was essential to TC’s judgment. CA found that, other than generally stating that the imputed income was derived from Ex-Husband’s law practice, rental properties and capital gains, TC provided no explanation as to how it reached the $8,000 a month figure. Without adequate factual findings, CA held that TC’s decision could not be meaningfully reviewed and that the omitted finding involved a matter which was essential to TC’s judgment. Thus, TC erred by denying Ex-Husband’s motion for additional factual findings on this issue and the matter must be remanded for additional findings.

"In rendering the decision herein, we are cognizant of the fact that CR 52.01 specifically states that "[f]indings of fact and conclusions of law are unnecessary on decisions of motions under Rule 12 or 56 or any other motion except as provided in Rule 41.02." Although the instant appeal arises from "decisions of motions," the issue of child support was initially raised in Ex-Wife’s petition for dissolution and was only resolved after an evidentiary hearing. Thus, we conclude that the crux of this appeal stems from an action "tried upon the facts without a jury[,]" as set forth in CR 52.01. However, we are also of the opinion that CR 52.01, as currently written, is not only overbroad but illogical. The majority of orders and judgments from TC originate from a motion. Many motions require a court to try the issues upon the facts. To hold that a trial court is not obligated to make findings of fact when ruling on a motion of any kind except as provided in CR 41.022 necessarily deprives litigants of an understanding of the order or judgment, as well as inhibits any type of meaningful appellate review. We would urge our Supreme Court and Rules Committee to review and revise CR 52.01."

Reversed and remanded.
Digested by Michelle Eisenmenger Mapes

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