Andrew Michael Myers is one husband who definitely needed a prenup

Posted Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Alimony/Spousal Support, Attorney's Fees, Divorce and Marriage, Equitable Distribution/Property Division, Jurisprudence, Law and Culture, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys, Of Interest to General Public, South Carolina Appellate Decisions

In the history of South Carolina husbands who wish they had a prenup, I bet there are few with more justification for this feeling than Andrew Michael Myers.  The January 19, 2011 Court of Appeals opinion Myers v. Myers, 391 S.C. 308, 705 S.E.2d 86 (Ct. App. 2011), provides some fascinating views of South Carolina’s contemporary divorce jurisprudence.  Any man who thinks marriage is a sucker’s bet will find plenty of support for that belief in this opinion.

A nine-year third marriage with no children and no fault for folks in their early sixties is, as even husband conceded, a permanent periodic alimony case!?!  From case law noting that rehabilitative alimony should be awarded in very limited circumstances, this has been my understanding of the law.  Up to now many of my clients and colleagues would disagree with this understanding of the law but Myers evinces an almost prodigal view towards alimony awards.

Further, during the marriage, by the parties’ agreement, Wife used her salary exclusively for her own benefit while Husband paid all the bills and their living expenses from his earnings.  Yet the Court of Appeals affirmed an equitable distribution award that gave Wife 48% of the marital estate!?!

Finally, because Husband earns more than Wife and because Wife obtained permanent alimony, the Court of Appeals affirmed an award of attorney’s fees to Wife that amounted to almost 40% of Husband’s property division award!?!

Bet Mr. Myers wished he had a prenup.

Still the Court of Appeals opinion offered Mr. Myers some relief from the family court order.  The family court awarded Wife $3,o00 a month in permanent periodic alimony, which provided Wife with greater income than Husband.  This award went to a woman whose leisure activity of choice was, according to this opinion and apparently according to her own testimony, shopping.  The family court had no issue with Wife’s $6,000 per month in claimed expenses but took issue with Husband’s exact same figure in claimed monthly expenses because it found he “double counted” some expenses.

The Court of Appeals found some of Wife’s expenses overstated, including her “$2,300 per month on clothing, entertainment, trips, clubs, hair care, cosmetics, pet care, nails, tanning, and gifts” and “almost $1,000 per month for food and household supplies.”  Further it appears the family court considered some of Husband’s expenses overstated because his business paid them.  But the family court also found Husband’s income was greater than his actual wages because his business paid these housing and car expenses.  Thus it was the family court, not Husband, who “double counted” these expenses.  Based on Husband’s income of $100,000 a year [$8,133.33 per month] and Wife’s income of $2,455 per month, the Court of Appeals reduced Husband’s alimony obligation to $2,000 per month.  Still not bad for a nine-year third marriage in which Wife’s income was used solely for her benefit and her primary leisure activity was shopping.

On equitable distribution, the Court of Appeals found that Husband’s F-150 Truck was not turned into a marital asset merely because the inheritance he used to purchase this truck was initially deposited into the parties’ joint checking account.  The Court of Appeals noted:

The nonmarital character of inherited property may be lost if the property becomes so commingled as to be untraceable; is utilized by the parties in support of the marriage; or is titled jointly or otherwise utilized in such manner as to evidence an intent by the parties to make it marital property.  The phrase “so commingled as to be untraceable” is important because the mere commingling of funds does not automatically make them marital funds.

Citations omitted.  Myers establishes the important point that commingled funds which remain traceable retain their status as separate property.  The remainder of the Myers opinion on equitable distribution affirmed an award that it calculated as a 48/52% distribution to Wife.  Again, not bad for a nine-year third marriage in which Wife’s income was used solely for her benefit and her primary leisure activity was shopping.

Finally, because, on appeal, the Court of Appeals reduced some of Wife’s beneficial results, it reduced her award from 60% to 50% of the $42,957 in attorney’s fees and costs she sought.   It justified this $21,478.50 fee award by Husband’s greater income and greater non-marital assets and on Wife’s successful results in obtaining permanent alimony [an issue Husband didn’t dispute] and property division.  Yet again, not bad for a nine-year third marriage in which Wife’s income was used solely for her benefit and her primary leisure activity was shopping.

My male clients often complain that the South Carolina Family Court makes marriage a sucker’s bet.  The Myers opinion provides ammunition for this claim.  While substantial permanent periodic alimony can be justified in a long-term marriage in which one spouse devotes his (or more likely her) life to raising the parties’ children or in which there is substantial marital fault, I doubt few states other than South Carolina would require a husband to pay almost 25% of his income in alimony in a situation such as this.  Further, in a short marriage where one spouse earns and the other spouse shops, how can anything close to a 50/50 division of assets be justified, especially when Husband’s attorney fee obligation amounts to almost 40% of his equitable distribution award?

Surely Ms. Myers deserves some alimony and property division from a husband who evidently left a marriage in which he was unhappy.  But after a nine-year marriage that supported his wife’s shopping habit, shouldn’t Mr. Myers be entitled to keep more of his income?

2 thoughts on Andrew Michael Myers is one husband who definitely needed a prenup

  1. Perry says:

    Mr. Myers’ situation is typical of divorces in SC. The family court system here is a joke, except the only ones that aren’t laughing are us men. I know of case after case where the same thing has happened. (mine being a lot like Mr. myers)

    I had the house when my (hopefully) soon to be X of nine years and I got married. She was renting a single wide, thirty plus year old mobil home with the bath tub literally falling through the floor. All funiture and appliances new and paid for. I don’t make the kind of money Mr. Myers does, I cashed in all of my 401K from a previouse company just to get the mortage payment down to where I could afford it, on my little 1400 sq. ft. house.

    She did pretty much the same as Mrs. Myers. I paid most of the bills, always paid the mortgage by myself and because I wouldn’t put her name on the deed, she stopped helping pay any of the house hold expenses the last year we were together except for buying a FEW groceries once in a while. She called me many times to stop and get food from a resturant for dinner.

    My will left her the sole beneficery of all that I have, (we have no children) including about $300,000.00 worth of life insurance. The reason she gave for wanting her name on the deed was she would have to pay a lawyer a few hundred dollars to get the deed changed from my name to her’s if I died.

    I was the one who filed for divorce and moved out. For now, she living in the house and I was ordered by the judge to continue to pay the mortgage, electric bill and water bill until the further notice. (She makes almost as much money as I do.)

    I agree … at one time, where the wife stayed home and raised the kids, splitting the assets, and giving the wife the house for the children was the right thing to do, but things have changed, I believe most women these days have jobs of their own and the law and the courts need to keep up with the times.

    There’s no way anyone with half a brain could say what happened to Mr. Myers and myself is fair, but since the people that declare how things are gonna be aren’t losing anything by their decision, they don’t care. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so devistating.

    I don’t have but a few years left until retirement, I guess I’ll do like some others I’ve heard about and eat dog food.

    I believe that SC should do like I’ve heard Texas does, and let a jury decide how things are gonna be divided up. I believe that if all the facts were heard, and justice served, Mr. Myers and I wouldn’t end up with the royal @#%^&*.

    Didn’t mean for this to be so long, but I hate injustice, always have, always will. Thank you.

  2. Andy says:

    My exposure to the family court justice system over the past three+ years was just as shocking. I had a five-year marriage, no kids, and my ex wife owned her own business. For starters, rather than set temporary alimony at an amount that was reasonable for the circumstances until the matter was settled, I was ordered to pay in excess of 10k/month which turned out to be a disincentive to get the case settled. In other words, my ex-wife, and just as much her lawyer, were much happier to drag the case out forever and keep collecting that money every month!!! Then even though I established MULTIPLE adulteries, I still never got a dime of that temp alimony back, or any of the tremendous amount of money I spent on private investigators and attorney’s fees defending the case. In the end, I still ended up paying out a huge settlement solely because of the well-known and slanted unfairness of our family court system. Not only my lawyer but every lawyer I consulted admonished me that no matter what my evidence, no matter what the strength of my case, no matter that I owned my businesses long before we were married, the outcome was in the unfettered, predisposed control of whatever judge I happen to draw for the final hearing and his or her personal premonitions and the result would be totally unpredictable. So it was cheaper to pay than gamble on “justice” with a trial. We definitely need our system overhauled because the present system is far to arbitrary and thus undermines the institution of marriage and the desire to establish another family after such an experience.

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