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No give-back for $3M ED award

A husband who voluntarily paid a $3 million equitable distribution award and $72,000 of wife’s attorney’s fees has forfeited his right to challenge the court-ordered payments on appeal, the Court of Appeals said yesterday.

But the husband got a consolation prize. The appellate panel in Stephenson v. Musgrave said a Roanoke County Circuit Court erred because it did not reserve to husband a right to seek spousal support in the future.

Married in 1993, the parties “amassed substantial assets” during the course of the marriage, wrote Judge William G. Petty for the appellate panel. The couple filed for divorce in 2004, and in 2009, the trial court ordered the husband to pay the wife a monetary award of $3,061,698.47. The judge also ordered the husband to pay $72,000 in attorney’s fees because of the husband’s “duplicitous behavior” in attempting to secrete assets. The husband’s behavior during the divorce also factored into the trial court’s decision not to reserve the husband’s right to later ask for support.

Husband paid up before the court’s 150-day deadline in order to avoid accrual of interest. Still, that payment was voluntary, the appellate panel said in its unpublished opinion.

But the husband’s present comfortable financial situation did not mean he would never need support, Petty said, and the trial court could not use this means to punish him for his attempts to hide assets.
By Deborah Elkins

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