Appeal from Jefferson Circuit Court (DR-12-900314)
THOMPSON, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Lucile Williams Ray ("the wife") appeals from a judgment of the Jefferson Circuit Court ("the trial court") divorcing her from Daniel Ray ("the husband"). In the judgment, the trial court divided the parties marital property and reserved the right to award the wife periodic alimony. The trial court also ordered the husband to pay the wife $5, 702 in past-due pendente lite support.
Most of the evidence presented in this case was disputed, with each party casting himself or herself in the role of "victim." The testimony taken during the ore tenus trial of this matter indicates the following.
The parties were married in 1987. They had two children, both of whom were adults by the time of the divorce. At the time of the trial, the wife was 48 years old; the husband was 50 years old. The parties' first child was born in 1986. The wife had been attending a junior college at the time, but she stopped going to school to care for the baby. The husband, who "went to the 11th grade, " worked full time and supported the family. He testified that he understood the need for the wife to stay home with the baby; however, he said, he encouraged her to go back to school. The parties' second child was born in the early 1990s.
The wife testified that she wanted to work outside the home but that the husband would not allow her to do so. The wife testified that when she brought up the possibility of working or returning to school, the husband accused her of only wanting "to be out to meet guys." The parties' older child echoed the wife's testimony regarding the husband's refusal to allow the wife to work.
When the parties married, the husband said, he was working as a laborer for Gold Kist, Inc. He worked at the Gold Kist plant for 12 years, until the plant closed in 1998. The husband has a retirement account with Gold Kist that he can begin drawing from when he reaches age 55. The record does not indicate the amount of the retirement account. When the older child reached age 10 or 11 and the younger child was 5, the husband said, "things started getting rough." He testified that he asked the wife to find a job to help, but, he said, she "flat out refused." After leaving Gold Kist, the husband obtained a job with Rock Wool Manufacturing Co. ("Rock Wool"); he was still working for Rock Wool at the time of the trial. The evidence is undisputed that, for a time, while he was working full time for Rock Wool, the husband also worked a second full-time job to make ends meet. In the years leading up to the divorce, the husband worked full time for Rock Wool and part time at Fred's Drug Store. He left the job at Fred's two weeks before the trial started. The husband testified that, at age 50, his blood pressure was high and that he could no longer work two jobs because he needed more rest. Documents in the record indicate that in 2012 the husband earned $44, 606.20 from Rock Wool and $15, 839 from Fred's, for a total income of $60, 445.20. In 2013, the husband earned $38, 897.39 from Rock Wool and $11, 662.91 from Fred's, for a total income of $50, 560.03. The husband's hourly wage from Rock Wool at the time of trial was $18.25. Thus, without income from Fred's, the husband's gross monthly income at the time of trial from his full-time job with Rock Wool was approximately $2, 920. The husband testified that his monthly expenses were $2, 074. Although the husband does not have a valid driver's license, his expenses included a $370 a month automobile payment and automobile insurance of $155. The husband said that his sister drove the vehicle.
The wife testified that the husband left the family for days, weeks, or months at a time during the marriage. During those absences, the wife said, the husband would leave them without a vehicle, food, or financial support. She said that the husband was a crack-cocaine addict and that he was going on "binges" during the times he left the house. However, she acknowledged that he kept working during his absences and that his addiction "apparently" had no effect on his ability to work.
The husband testified that he had taken part in a substance-abuse program in the late 1990s and that he had not used illegal drugs since that time. He explained that, throughout his employment with Rock Wool, he had been required to submit to random drug testing at least three times a year. He said that "it would be almost impossible for me to have been down there the length of time that I've been down there and still be doing drugs."
In 2010, the wife said, the husband left the marital residence for more than one month and took both vehicles the parties had. He did not provide the wife with any support during that time, the wife said. In 2012, just before the wife filed the divorce complaint, the husband left the marital home again. At that time, the wife said, the husband stole money the older child was planning to use to pay for his own child's child support. The wife testified that the husband had the power turned off at the marital residence while he was away.
The husband conceded that he had left the marital residence at times. However, he disputed the wife's testimony that he kept the money from his paychecks, saying that he would give her the paychecks to cash so that she could pay bills. He testified that, during the marriage, he would have to ask the wife for money for things like cold drinks or cigarettes, but, he said, the wife would not always give him the money for such purchases. The husband acknowledged that the bills were paid, so he did not question what the wife did with the money.
The last time the husband left home, he said, was in 2012, just before the wife filed the divorce complaint. The husband said that he left the marital residence then because the wife and the parties' children were being physically abusive to him. He said that the wife stood by and watched as the children, now grown men, hit and kicked him and that he could not take living with the wife any longer.
Even during the times the husband was not living with the family, the wife said, she was "forbidden" to work. She said that the husband threatened to leave if she went to work. During the husband's absences, the wife said, she did not attempt to work because she did not know when the husband would be coming back. The wife said that the only time she worked during the marriage was for a period in 1997 when the parties separated for a time. Even then, the wife said, the husband took the parties' car and she had to walk to work or have people take her to and from work. Eventually she lost that job, she said. She testified that she had no real work experience or training.
At the time of the trial, the wife was working at a service station earning $8 an hour. Her monthly take-home pay was $840, she said. She presented evidence indicating that her monthly expenses totaled $2, 080. In July 2013, the husband was ordered to pay the wife pendente lite support of $600 a month. However, the husband did not make any of the ordered payments, saying that he did not believe that the wife "deserved it." He testified that the wife "wasn't ...