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  1. #1
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    Dec 2016
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    Default Appeal of a Court's Decision on a Motion to Enforce a Divorce Judgment

    My question involves a marriage in the state of: Washington

    I would like to know thoughts/opinions on this case, and what the outcome might be...

    The husband and wife divorced quite a while ago. The divorce decree allowed the wife to keep the home, but she was required to pay the husband his half of the equity. In order to not put extra burden on the children, the husband put into the decree that he would waive interest, and allow the wife to make payments when possible to address the judgement, but that the final balance would be due by the time the youngest child graduated high school. There was also a note that the wife had a good faith duty to make payments on the judgment in the event of any financial windfall. At the time, the wife had a standard full time job and no other income.

    One year later, the husband and wife created an informal agreement clarifying the final deadline to be specifically a certain month and year. The agreement stated that it did not change the terms of the divorce decree. Both parties signed it.

    Many years later the wife filed a new support order. During this time, the husband discovered the wife had come into significant money and property from an inheritance, and had not paid him any payments on the judgment. He was granted an ex parte financial restraining order to demand an explanation as to why the judgment had not been paid. The wife presented the informal agreement, and argued that showed she did not have any burden to pay anything until that deadline. Oddly enough, she did admit she had sold two large pieces of property and was getting over $1,000 per month in additional income from the sales of properties as well as rent from other properties. She also claimed that the night before the restraining order went into effect, she spent tens of thousands of dollars paying off a large number of debts and giving thousands to her sibling.

    The commissioner listened to the arguments and ruled that the wife had an obligation to make payments based on the decree, but he could not at that time determine if she had sufficient funds to do so. He sent the case to a judge for later decision.

    The husband's attorney forced the wife to submit financial records. The wife submitted some, but left out her savings accounts, and the declaration of all assets.

    At the next hearing, the judge said he interpreted the informal agreement is indeed allowing the wife to wait until the deadline to make the full payment.

    The husband's attorney filed a motion for reconsideration and was denied. The case is now filed for an appeal.

    The attorney is arguing that the first commissioner was in error in not making a immediate judgment against the wife because he had sufficient evidence of her additional income by her own admission, and she demonstrated poor faith by dumping assets. Additionally, the attorney is arguing that the second judge was in error by reinterpreting the agreement, and defacto rewriting the original judgment's terms through his ruling. The attorney is asking for attorney fees due to the poor faith issue as well as the wife's additional income exceeding the husband's by a large amount.

    What do you think the outcome might be?

  2. #2
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    Oct 2014
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    Default Re: Appeal of a Court's Decision on a Motion to Enforce a Divorce Judgment

    Quote Quoting oldsmom
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    What do you think the outcome might be?
    I have no idea because the exact language of the decrees and orders in the case, as well as the out of court agreement they made, are critical to determining what the ex-wife is obligated to do.

  3. #3
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    Dec 2016
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    Default Re: Appeal of a Court's Decision on a Motion to Enforce a Divorce Judgment

    Here's the exact wording from the decree with specifics removed...
    "Wife shall owe husband an equalization payment in the amount of $xxx. This shall bear no interest and wife shall pay at her ability. Wife shall have an affirmative duty to make good faith and reasonable efforts to remit payments in a prompt and timely manner so as to not take advantage of husband's agreement to waive interest and specific repayment terms. If equalization payment has not been paid in full by the time the parties' youngest child graduates high school, payment shall be due in full within 90 days of child's graduation."

    And here's the wording from the informal agreement...
    "The parties intend to abide by the Decree of Dissolution regarding the court ordered debt. The terms of payment are outlined in the (sic) Decree, however the parties want to add clarity to ensure understanding between the parties regarding payment of the debt. Both parties agree the debt will not be due until 90 days after the youngest child graduates high school. The approximate date the debt is to be paid in full is September 2017. In the event the debt can be paid prior to that, the paying party may do so without any prepayment penalty. Should the child not complete high school, the debt is still due..."

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Appeal of a Court's Decision on a Motion to Enforce a Divorce Judgment

    Quote Quoting oldsmom
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    Here's the exact wording from the decree with specifics removed...
    "Wife shall owe husband an equalization payment in the amount of $xxx. This shall bear no interest and wife shall pay at her ability. Wife shall have an affirmative duty to make good faith and reasonable efforts to remit payments in a prompt and timely manner so as to not take advantage of husband's agreement to waive interest and specific repayment terms. If equalization payment has not been paid in full by the time the parties' youngest child graduates high school, payment shall be due in full within 90 days of child's graduation."

    And here's the wording from the informal agreement...
    "The parties intend to abide by the Decree of Dissolution regarding the court ordered debt. The terms of payment are outlined in the (sic) Decree, however the parties want to add clarity to ensure understanding between the parties regarding payment of the debt. Both parties agree the debt will not be due until 90 days after the youngest child graduates high school. The approximate date the debt is to be paid in full is September 2017. In the event the debt can be paid prior to that, the paying party may do so without any prepayment penalty. Should the child not complete high school, the debt is still due..."
    The debt is not due until 90 days AFTER THE CHILD graduates or September 2017. She has time to pay. The payment is NOT DUE until next year. Your husband should NEVER have gone back to court. His claim was nearly frivolous.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Appeal of a Court's Decision on a Motion to Enforce a Divorce Judgment

    That's a pretty strong reaction to the question. I am surprised.

    I would disagree that the case is frivolous. The informal agreement specifically states that the terms of the payment still stand - which state the wife has an affirmative duty to pay when the money is available to do so. Additionally, the commissioner in the first hearing stated that the wife still had the affirmative duty to make payments. He just wasn't sure if he had enough information to decide if she should have made payments at that point.

    But your point is appreciated as a possible outcome in which the appeals court could rule that the second judge's opinion stands.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Appeal of a Court's Decision on a Motion to Enforce a Divorce Judgment

    Quote Quoting oldsmom
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    That's a pretty strong reaction to the question. I am surprised.

    I would disagree that the case is frivolous. The informal agreement specifically states that the terms of the payment still stand - which state the wife has an affirmative duty to pay when the money is available to do so. Additionally, the commissioner in the first hearing stated that the wife still had the affirmative duty to make payments. He just wasn't sure if he had enough information to decide if she should have made payments at that point.

    But your point is appreciated as a possible outcome in which the appeals court could rule that the second judge's opinion stands.
    The problem is that the agreement also said, AFTER it said the part that you think is important:

    "Both parties agree the debt will not be due until 90 days after the youngest child graduates high school. The approximate date the debt is to be paid in full is September 2017. In the event the debt can be paid prior to that, the paying party may do so without any prepayment penalty. Should the child not complete high school, the debt is still due..."
    Which clearly states that the debt will not be due until 90 days after the youngest child graduates from high school, AND clear states that the paying party "may" (which means if they choose to ) pay early without any penalty.

    I do not think that your husband is going to win this one and I think that he is spending a lot of money on an appeal that he will lose, and he very well could get sanctioned for a frivolous filing. I also suspect that by the time an appeal is decided, that it will be September 2017 or later, anyway.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Appeal of a Court's Decision on a Motion to Enforce a Divorce Judgment

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    I do not think that your husband is going to win this one and I think that he is spending a lot of money on an appeal that he will lose, and he very well could get sanctioned for a frivolous filing. I also suspect that by the time an appeal is decided, that it will be September 2017 or later, anyway.
    That is an interesting comment. The attorney specializes in appeals, is beyond confident in winning the case. The law firm is highly ranked with a good track record in the city, and is respected in the local legal community. I am uncertain if the appeal will succeed, but a sanction would seem odd considering the confidence level of the attorney in this situation.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Appeal of a Court's Decision on a Motion to Enforce a Divorce Judgment

    Quote Quoting oldsmom
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    That is an interesting comment. The attorney specializes in appeals, is beyond confident in winning the case. The law firm is highly ranked with a good track record in the city, and is respected in the local legal community. I am uncertain if the appeal will succeed, but a sanction would seem odd considering the confidence level of the attorney in this situation.
    Is this an actual appeal to the appellate court, or an appeal from a commissioner to a sitting judge? I would find it hard to believe that any ethical attorney would take a case that was an appeal to the appellate court at this point. You only have nine months to go until September 2017. Appeals to appellate courts generally take anywhere from 12-18 months. A full out appeal would be a total waste of money.

    If its an appeal from a commissioner to a sitting judge, that would make more sense...although I still think that you are going to lose and could very well be sanctioned.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Appeal of a Court's Decision on a Motion to Enforce a Divorce Judgment

    It is an actual appeal to an appellate court, and it is already in the process of scheduling. And the attorney not only has a good reputation, but also recently awarded by the Bar Association.

    I believe the attorney has a case worth hearing because the informal agreement was obviously not a proper meeting of the minds. The husband never intended to give up rights to the payments in advance of the final deadline, and the commissioner supported this in his findings. And was not intended to rewrite the terms of the original agreement. However, I do not know if the case will win or not.

    After reading the state laws regarding sanctions on appeal, I don't think the case would warrant sanctions. Especially considering the respondent chose to not file a brief. But if it did, based on what I read, it appears the attorney would likely be the sanctioned party.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
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    7

    Default Re: Appeal of a Court's Decision on a Motion to Enforce a Divorce Judgment

    "And the attorney not only has a good reputation, but also recently awarded by the Bar Association"

    If that is the case, why are you here?

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