January 9, 2019
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(DRB-3364-09), (Hon. Michael OKeefe, Trial Judge)
J.P. Bouquet, with whom Shuaa Tajammul, was on the brief, for
Oliver, pro se.
Glickman, Thompson, and Easterly, Associate Judges.
parties in this case, Jeffrey Crater and Martha Oliver, were
divorced in 2011, with the Superior Court merging into the
divorce decree a Term Sheet negotiated by the parties. In
2015, after Mr. Crater was involuntarily terminated from his
job as a lobbyist, he moved in March of that year to modify
the alimony amount ($ 5,000 per
month) that the divorce decree required him to pay Ms. Oliver
in accordance with the Term Sheet. See Crater
v. Oliver, No. 16-FM-1256, Mem. Op. & J. at 2 (D.C. May
22, 2018) (the "May 2018 MOJ"). Ruling on the
motion to modify and citing Mr. Craters greatly reduced
income beginning in 2015, the Superior Court ordered that Mr.
Crater would be required to pay Ms. Oliver eleven percent of
his gross income each year as alimony. In a separate appeal
resolved by the May 2018 MOJ, Mr. Crater successfully
challenged the Superior Courts reliance solely on the eleven
percent formula, which this court held failed to take into
account "both parties current circumstances ...."
instant appeal, Mr. Crater appeals from a July 26, 2017,
judgment of the Superior Court, entered before the May 2018
MOJ was issued, in which the Superior Court applied the
eleven percent formula to what the court determined to be Mr.
Craters 2016 gross income, to establish the amount of
alimony Mr. Crater was obligated to pay Ms. Oliver for 2016.
There is no dispute that the Superior Court was required,
pursuant to the May 2018 MOJ, to revisit its ruling on the
amount of alimony; the Superior Court did so, and its
modified ruling is the subject of a separate appeal now
pending in this court in consolidated Appeal Nos. 17-FM-1426,
17-FM-1456, and 18-FM-0726. But the instant appeal requires
us to address a narrow issue that is independent of the
issues that must be decided in those consolidated appeals.
Specifically, the question before us is whether, as Mr.
Crater argues, the Superior Court abused its discretion in
ruling, with respect to the gains Mr. Crater realized in 2016
from the exercise of stock options granted to him by his
(former) employer, that the gains must be included in
calculating Mr. Craters gross income for 2016 for purposes
of determining the amount of spousal support he was required
to pay for that year. For the following reasons, we conclude
that the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in that
1, 2017, and July 21, 2017, the Superior Court held hearings
on the alimony issue. Following the July 21 hearing, the
court issued its order that is the subject of this appeal,
ruling that for purposes of alimony, Mr. Craters 2016 gross
income for alimony concerns was $ 317,545, an amount that the
court found resulted in required alimony of $ 34,930 (11% of
$ 317,545) for 2016. The court arrived at that amount by
including in Mr. Craters 2016 gross income approximately $
63,000 Mr. Crater realized from exercise of his stock
"There are no fixed rules for determining ... in what
amount alimony should be awarded." Leftwich v.
Leftwich,442 A.2d 139, 142 (D.C. 1982). Rather,
"[a] trial court has a considerable measure of
discretion in determining the appropriate amount of
alimony[,]" and "that determination will not be
disturbed on appeal unless the court clearly abused its
discretion." Ford v. Castillo,98 A.3d 962, 965
(D.C. 2014) (quoting Araya v. Keleta,65 A.3d 40, 48
(D.C. 2013) ) (internal quotation marks omitted). In
reviewing an alimony award (like any other judgment) for
abuse of discretion, we "must determine whether the
decision maker failed to consider a relevant factor, whether
he relied upon an improper factor, and ...