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Wife’s Appeal Nets More Fees

In pro se wife’s appeal of a final divorce order, the Court of Appeals summarily affirms the trial court’s denial of wife’s requested continuance, equitable distribution rulings and award of $4,690 attorney’s fees and costs to husband;  appellate attorney’s fees also are awarded to husband for wife’s meritless appeal.

The parties separated after over six years of marriage and divorced nearly three years later.  On the eve of the scheduled final divorce hearing, wife emailed husband’s counsel that she was unable to attend and express mailed a package of medical documents.  The trial court denied wife a continuance, finding the documents sent were not current and failed to explain her inability to be present. The trial court ordered the former marital residence sold and directed the parties to share necessary repair costs.  Husband’s IRA was held separate, unlike wife’s 401(k) held marital and husband’s 401(k) held partly marital.  Wife’s previously imposed attorney’s fee liability of $690 was increased to $4,690.  Wife’s motion for reconsideration was denied.

On appeal, wife challenges the trial court’s denying her a continuance and its rulings on equitable distribution.  We affirm these discretionary trial court determinations, applying our normal deferential standard of review.  We further impose attorney’s fees for wife’s meritless appeal. The medical documents wife submitted did not address her current situation or explain her inability to attend.  The trial court properly ordered sharing repair costs necessary to sell the marital residence and sale of that residence.  Wife’s argument about the classification of the IRA is procedurally defaulted:  she argues valuation in her brief without having assigned that as error or argued that below.  Pro se litigants are bound by our rules and substantive laws.  Husband documented over $14,000 in attorney’s fees and costs; the award of $4,690 is reasonable.

We remand to determine husband’s attorney’s fees wife must pay for this meritless appeal.

Laing v. Laing (Per Curiam) No. 2550-11-4, May 15, 2012; Fairfax County Cir. Ct. (Smith) Catherine Wu Laing pro se for appellant; Cory Frederick Goriup for appellee. VLW 012-7-152(UP), 6 pp.

VLW 012-7-152

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