The notice requirement for a spousal support hearing

In the recent case of Haskell v Haskell the Court ordered a spousal support order and issued a divorce judgment when one of the spouses did not attend the hearing.  Can the Court enter a final order for spousal support when a party does not appear? And can the order be set aside for failure of the due process requirement?  These are the issues the Court dealt with on appeal from Mr Haskell.

Pamela Haskell had filed for temporary order of spousal support.  Notice was given to Dusty Haskell via mail which was a proper method of notice accepted by the Court.  At that time both parties lived together in the same residence and the mail for Dusty was placed on a table that was available to him and was known to him to have his mail. After the temporary spousal support hearing was held by the Court they issued temporary orders giving Dusty Haskell temporary Spousal support in the amount of $4,000 per month.  Thereafter, Pamela Haskell gave notice of the result of the hearing by placing notice on a box in the house visible to Dusty Haskell when he would come home.

A final Spousal Support Hearing was held and Dusty Haskell did not attend after it was determined by the Trial Court that he had been given proper notice. The Financial declaration of the wife Pamela Haskell was used to determine final amount of Spousal support.

In determining Spousal support there are many factors the Court must use in order to come down with adequate amount to a party not making as much as the other party.  The California rule deals with the marital standard of living evaluation.  That means that both parties need to live according to the standard they had when they were married. In the case of Dusty Haskell the Maine Superior Court evaluated the total marital income and divided the income among the parties.  The result was that Pamela, the wife, was awarded $6,000 a month in spousal support to support the marital standard of living.  Dusty did not appear at the hearing again and the Court used Pamela’s financial papers as proof of the marital income Dusty and Pamela earned as a married couple.

Dusty of course appealed claiming improper notice for the spousal support hearing and also attempted to appeal a set aside of the divorce judgment entered after the final spousal support hearing.  Often to set aside a judgment you must prove there was some sort of excusable neglect or mistake relied upon by the grieving party.  The appellate Court of Maine did not find that there was neglect and held that Dusty did not use due diligence so that notice was properly given.  He did not update his mailing address nor comply with Court orders to update his financial records.

Finally, the Maine Court heard from Dusty that because he was not represented the Spousal support hearing had to be reversed. This too the Maine Court did not agree and upheld the Spousal support award.