A man recently appealed a trial court’s findings in the divorce proceedings between him and his ex-wife. At trial, the court had awarded the wife a lump sum for the value of the couple’s home as well as the value of attorney’s fees. On appeal, the husband argued both of these values were unreasonably high. The court disagreed, sustaining the original verdict.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the wife filed a petition for divorce after having been married to her husband for ten years. After the filing, the husband and wife significantly disagreed on two issues: distribution of money for the value of the couple’s house and the awarding of attorney’s fees.
During the couple’s marriage, the monthly mortgage payments were divided equally between the parties. At trial, the wife’s attorney emphasized that she had been the person contributing financially to the improvement of the property, doing the grocery shopping, and taking care of the couple’s children the majority of the time. The husband, on the other hand, had “made negative nonmonetary contributions” to the home by hoarding and diminishing the value of the residence. The court used this evidence, along with the mortgage balance on the house, to determine that the husband owed the wife approximately $38,000 for the value of this asset.
The trial court also awarded the wife $10,000 in attorney’s fees. The court concluded that this amount of money was “entirely reasonable” since it was the husband who put the wife into a position of needing to retain and pay for an attorney: he was more at fault for the ending of the marriage, he behaved poorly in the courtroom and unnecessarily extended the proceedings, and he argued much more than the wife during the trial which forced her to pay her attorney for more hours than she would have otherwise.
On appeal, the husband argued that his ex-wife was awarded too much money at trial. He stated that his wife did not pay an equal share of the mortgage – the court believed that she paid half the mortgage throughout the course of their marriage, but in reality, she only paid 11% of the total amount. The court disagreed: it specifically reviewed all of the evidence related to the couple’s home and concluded that the wife’s testimony detailing her mortgage payments was credible.
The husband also argued that the trial court arbitrarily estimated the amount of money he had to pay the wife in attorney’s fees. This argument was also rejected. The court determined that the husband’s actions and behavior during the case had caused the wife to incur additional fees since his poor behavior made the case last much longer than it would have otherwise. Thus, said the court, it was entirely reasonable for the wife to be awarded $10,000 in attorney’s fees.
Are You Going Through a Family Law Issue in Virginia?
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