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Parties Switch Roles, Split Marital Estate

In a 23-year marriage in which wife at first stayed home with the children, then went back to school and worked as a nurse, and husband then stayed home to care for the family and to provide the labor to make improvements on real estate the parties purchased, a Warren County Circuit Court says the parties contributed equally over the long term and the marital assets, including real estate in Fredericksburg and North Carolina beach property, should be evenly divided.

Wife will be permitted to buy husband’s interest in the beach property by paying him $135,000, or husband may purchase her interest. If neither party wishes to purchase the property, it will be sold and the proceeds divided equally between them. Wife owes husband $3,250, or one-half the value of a shed on the property that wife removed and placed on property owned by a friend.

The parties have entered into a settlement agreement with Trae Becker trading as Hometec in North Carolina. He owes the parties approximately $60,000. The parties shall share equally monies received pursuant to this claim. The husband has received approximately $8,000 in this regard since the separation, and the wife is entitled to $4,000 of this. The parties have agreed to authorize a lawyer to pursue judgment against the debtor and to have the retainer paid out of an escrow from the sale of their Fredericksburg real estate.

The Lucent Technologies stock is wife’s separate property, as is her 403-B retirement plan stared in March 2009, after the parties’ separation in 2008. The wife also has a 401-K plan from her previous employer, which is subject to division under the normal formula. Husband has a pension plan from his previous employment at Amtrak, and those benefits will be subject to division under the same formula.

Wife also is entitled to $6,000 reimbursement from husband for his share of the $12,000 wife paid to settle a deficiency claim against her after a foreclosure sale of the marital residence.

The parties’ 16-year-old daughter resides with husband. Her private school tuition is husband’s separate debt. While I agree with husband that the school seems to be a good fit for the daughter, I cannot find wife’s objection to be unreasonable. The husband insisted on enrolling the daughter there over wife’s objection at a time when the parties were experiencing serious financial difficulties. The public schools were apparently not considered as an option even though they serve the needs of thousands of young people quite well. A private school education was not a necessity. It was a choice the husband made for his daughter, and he must bear the cost of it for the most part.

Wife left her job in Fredericksburg, moved to Massachusetts and took a job that pays less. This was a voluntary move. I will impute income to her at her previous rate, for a monthly income of $6,176.

Husband works for Paramount Builders as a sales representative, apparently as an independent contractor, for a monthly income of $5,474. Wife carries health insurance for the daughter at a cost of $390 per month.  Applying the child support guidelines, I find that wife’s child support obligation is $683.78.  As to the private school tuition, I direct wife to pay $240 per month, which is about 53 percent of the monthly tuition at the daughter’s previous school. Husband shall be responsible for the first $250 of uncovered medical and dental expenses incurred for the daughter each calendar year.

Sullivan v. Sullivan (Hupp) No. CL 10000384-00, Dec. 16, 2011; Warren County Cir.Ct.; Demian J. McGarry, John G. Cadden for the parties. VLW 011-8-228, 8 pp.

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