NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN WEST'S HAWAII REPORTS AND PACIFIC REPORTER
APPEAL FROM THE FAMILY COURT OF THE THIRD CIRCUIT (FC-D NO. 10-1-252K)
Bondu Kondeh Argue Defendant-Appellant pro se.
Presiding Judge Daniel S. Peters for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Foley, Presiding J., Leonard and Ginoza, JJ.
Defendant-Appellant Bondu Kondeh Argue (Bondu) appealsa April 23, 2012 Divorce Decree entered in the Family Court of the Third Circuit (family court), which denied her request for a spousal support award from Plaintiff-Appellee Bradley John Argue (Bradley).
A. Background of the Parties
On September 20, 1985, Bondu and Bradley were married in Sierra Leone, Africa. Bradley is from Minnesota and went to Sierra Leone to work for the Peace Corps. Bondu was born and raised in Sierra Leone and was self-employed from 1986-1988. Bondu had a child by a previous marriage, Kumba "Betty" Argue (Betty), born October 27, 1985, whom Bradley legally adopted. The Argues had three biological children during the marriage. Scott Sahr Argue (Scott) was born on September 5, 1987; John Tamba Argue (John) was born on September 8, 1993; and a minor child (minor child) born August 10, 1995. Betty and Scott are adults and are not financially dependent on their parents. John is an adult who attends Penn State University and lives with Bondu. The minor child also lives with Bondu, who currently has legal and physical custody. Bradley is responsible for John and the minor child's college expenses.
In 1989, the Argues moved from Sierra Leone to Alabama, where Bradley completed his college degree at Auburn University. Bradley financed his education with savings, student loans, and graduate assistant work. Bradley continued to attend school, graduating with a master's degree in December 1991 and a doctoral degree in 1996. Bondu asserts "she was the sole breadwinner, working three jobs to support the family while [Bradley] was going through college for his undergraduate and graduate and PhD in Alabama." In Alabama, Bondu worked in the fast food industry, did babysitting, yard work and house cleaning, and worked as a pond maintenance technician.
While Bradley attended school, the Argues "lived the life of a young financially struggling family trying to make ends meet." In 1998, Bradley found employment on O'ahu and the Argues relocated. The Argues continued to struggle financially due to Hawai'i's higher cost of living. In 2001, Bradley took a new job on Hawai'i island with Moana Technologies, LLC and commuted from O'ahu until 2005, when he moved to Hawai'i island permanently. Bondu and the children continued to live on O'ahu where Bondu engaged casual work as a babysitter, yard worker, and a caretaker for the elderly and sick people.
In August 2006, Bondu moved to Pennsylvania where she worked as a caretaker for Vision Health Care until 2011. She continues to live there with the minor child and John. Bradley visited Bondu and his children 1-2 times a year through 2008.
At the time that the parties' case went to trial, the net marital estate was worth (-)$37, 255, of which Bradley assumed (-)$31, 717 of the debt and Bondu assumed (-)$5, 538. Bondu was 47 years old and Bradley was 53 years old.
In November 2010, Bradley left his position as a research scientist with Moana Technologies, LLC in Kona and entered a three-year employment contract with the National Prawn Company in Saudi Arabia. Over the course of the proceedings, Bradley's reported monthly gross pay increased from $8, 000 per month in his October 13, 2010 Income and Expense statement to $8, 533 in his May 19, 2011 Income and Expense statement.
Bondu's Income and Expense statement dated June 28, 2011 shows a negative balance of (-)$3, 361. She asserts that she currently has no income and finances her living expenses from child support payments and charity from friends. Bradley has paid Bondu $1, 590 a month for John's and the minor child's living expenses since January 2010; and two friends, one of whom is a friend of Bradley's and to whom Bondu refers to as a "brother, " help her financially. Bondu alleges that Vision Health Care discontinued her employment in January 2011 because her illiteracy precluded her from obtaining a license required of careworkers. Bondu claims she is unemployed and is seeking vocational rehabilitation services from the State of Pennsylvania.
Bondu was first diagnosed with chronic back problems in Hawai'i and has had at least three major incidents where emergency assistance was required to get her out of bed. At the February 24, 2012 hearing, Bondu testified to the family court that her "back gets stuck" and she left her home on a stretcher a "few times." Bradley observed that Bondu "would throw out her back at times, " received muscle relaxant medical treatment for that condition, and "at times [her back pain] was a problem [in 'taking care of her activities, the daily living or her work, '] if she had to turn someone over or something." Bondu will not be able to afford medical coverage, which costs on average $400-$500 a month.
B. Procedural History
On October 12, 2010, Bradley filed a complaint for divorce. On February 3, 2011, Bondu filed her answer. The family court entered a divorce decree on April 23, 2012.
The parties entered a stipulation agreement, filed on February 24, 2012, reserving for trial issues relating to "[a]limony, an Equalization Payment on division and distribution of assets and debts, and Attorney fees . . . ." Also on that day, trial was held to resolve spousal support, equalization payment issues, and other property disputes. On March 20, 2012, the family court entered its Findings of Fact (FOFs), Conclusions of Law (COLs), and Order (FOF/COL/Order).
The FOF/COL/Order made the following relevant findings:
68. [Bondu] has a back condition that she said started while the partes lived in Alabama.
69. [Bradley] acknowledged that he knew [Bondu's] back would give her problems when it would fair [sic] up occassionally [sic], and that she ...