It can be hard to imagine the kind of emotional anguish that comes along with a divorce. Although sometimes divorces are truly mutual and in the best interest of both parties, even then there can be a lot of distress involved. And, of course, the money and children don’t make the process any easier. Between fighting over custody and visitation and deciding who should be paying for what, any divorce has the potential to go downhill in a hurry. In one Mobile County case, the court had to unravel a particularly messy case involving three young daughters and large amounts of money.
In this case, the husband and wife were divorced in 2005. By the terms of the divorce judgment, the husband was required to pay the wife $400,000 right away and another $66,667 per year for a property settlement for a few years after. Further, the husband was ordered to pay for his daughters’ private school tuition. In 2010, the divorce judgment was modified to require the husband to also pay more than $20,000 per year for each of his daughters’ college expenses. However, the wife accused the former husband of not paying what the court ordered him to pay, especially the college expenses. The court then imposed garnishments on the husband’s wages. Not long after, the wife came back asking for over $100,000 in additional garnishments for allegedly missed or late payments.
The trial court was not particularly excited to have to deal with this couple again. Accordingly, they decided to punt the problem out to what is known as a special master. The role of a special master is to serve as an officer of the court in a certain, limited area. Within that area, the special master can hear evidence and make recommendations to the court in the form of a report. Thus, the court appointed a special master to “determine the amount, if any, the former husband owes to the former wife.”
After a few years of the parties arguing and presenting documents to the special master, the special master presented his report. He found that the husband was supposed to have paid some money for college expenses, but that his only responsibility regarding the property settlement was for a single payment that was missed in 2009. According to the special master, over $30,000 in interest had accrued since then that the husband had to pay.
The trial court ended up adopting the special master’s report, but then turned around and amended its judgment. However, in neither instance did the trial court give the wife everything she was asking for. The wife then appealed.
The appeals court found almost entirely in the favor of the wife. Since the husband did not even submit a brief to the appeals court, it was something of an uphill battle for him. However, the court generally found that the husband had not paid what he was supposed to and owed interest from that. It even reinstated some garnishments that the trial court had canceled. The only thing the court did not grant to the wife was a mistake by both parties back in 2006 that led to the husband paying less than he was supposed to.
What I think is the biggest takeaway here is that it just is not worth it to spend decades fighting over money after a divorce. Unless there is a lot of money involved like in this case, it is often going to be much better to simply get the case over with and move on with your lives. Although the wife did win in the end, I wonder how hard it was on her and the daughters to have to deal with an ongoing court case for the better part of a decade. As the old saying goes, money does not buy happiness.
If you or a friend are involved in a divorce, give Joseph A. Ingram of INGRAM LAW LLC a call. Joseph Ingram has the hard-won experience in divorce and custody litigation that can help you find an answer for your legal needs. Call us at 205-335-2640 for a free consultation. Get Relief – Get Results.