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Dow and Dow

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 04-24-2013
Case #: A148380
Hadlock, J. for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; and Sercombe, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A148380.pdf

Family Law: In modifying a stipulated judgment of dissolution, a provision that does not contravene public policy or the law does not limit a court's ability to modify it. Additionally, a change of circumstances initiating modification can be the product of either party.

Wife appealed a supplemental judgment modifying a dissolution agreement. In 2004, Husband and Wife divorced and agreed to a stipulated judgment of dissolution. The agreement provided for spousal support and included an overage provision that changed the obligation when annual income of Husband or Wife exceeded specified amounts. In 2009, Wife moved to modify based on a change in circumstances. Husband denied that there had been a substantial change in circumstances, and made a counterclaim to remove the overage provision. The trial court agreed with Husband, and removed the overage provision. Wife appealed, arguing that the trial court erred because it (1) modified the agreement without showing that it contravened public policy or was against the law, (2) modified without Husband proving there was a substantial change in circumstances, (3) allowed Husband relief without a validly stated claim, and (4) justified the modification on the basis of financially disentangling the parties.  The Court of Appeals held, (1) there exists no basis for the argument that the trial court cannot modify an agreement that does not contravene public policy or the law, (2) that Wife's accepted petition for modification based on a substantial change in circumstances satisfied a change in circumstance for Husband, (3) that Husband's claim need only put Wife on notice, and (4) that the goal of financially disentangling the parties was only a factor in the lower court's decision.  Affirmed.