An April 4th appeal involved the conclusion of an incredibly litigious and bitter divorce. Arguing pro se (representing oneself), the Defendant (Appellant) ex-husband challenged the lower court’s calculation in its 2013 Final Judgment of Divorce that he ultimately owed his ex-wife $268,804. The court ruled because it has tremendous discretion in making calculations. There is no set-in-stone formula, but a rather more holistic approach is applied.
The couple married in Eastern Europe in 1989, and had a son and daughter. The wife filed for divorce in January 2009. The lower court separated the financial claims between the parties from the child custody ones, for the benefit of the children. She is also a neurologist who maintained a medical practice, while he is a tenured professor and owns and Internet technology consulting business. During their 19 year marriage, the lived in a four-bedroom, three-bathroom home. In the wake of the divorce, the wife decided to reduce her medical practice hours to spend time with her children, resulting in her practice’s substantial decline.
What followed was a sad and incredibly costly custody and financial battle, during which the wife managed to incur $797,278 in legal fees. The lower court found that the ex-husband purposefully extended the legal battle and was therefore responsible for nearly half of those fees, plus interest and all expert fees. The assets of the marriage produced little, as the home was sold at a loss. In addition, both their apartment and Eastern European vacation home were sold, all of this yielding less than $10,000.
The Final Judgment of Divorce was entered in November 2013. The court found Defendant owed his ex-wife $308,340, whereas she owed him $43,596, so he ultimately owed her $264,804. On appeal, the ex-husband tried to dispute many calculations made by the lower court. But one by one, the appeals court denied his points, citing to the general principle that absent abuse of discretion or clear error, a judge’s decision will not be disturbed.
Finally, it was shown that in many instances, the ex-husband purposefully acted in bad faith by prolonging litigation, refusing to be compliant with court orders, refusing to settle, and subjecting his children to a several years long custody battle. The appeals court upheld the lower court on every point. Was any of this actually worth it? Evan Xavier Bakhet is a J.D. Candidate at Rutgers School of Law-Newark with a scheduled graduation date in 2017. He collaborated with me on this blog.