‘Lifestyle’ Comment Not Grounds for Reversal

‘Lifestyle’ Comment Not Grounds for Reversal

By Deborah Elkins
Published: July 6, 2011

Tags: , ,

The Court of Appeals affirmed a final divorce decree determining spousal support and requiring husband to pay wife’s expert regarding husband’s ability to work; the trial court’s determinations are supported by the record and its decision to award expert expenses was not an abuse of discretion.

Husband and wife separated after 19 years of marriage and two children now adults. Husband voluntarily retired at age 55 from a job at World Bank that paid him $250,000 annually. Wife age 47 has not worked outside the home; she maintained the household while husband traveled and provided care for the children, one chronically ill.

At a hearing on contested matters, wife presented expert testimony about husband’s high earning capacity and worksheets supporting her monthly expenses of $6,491. Husband stipulated gross income between $245,000 and $250,000. Wife’s cost to retain her expert was $5,800. The final decree imputed to husband annual income of $250,000, awarded wife $7,182 monthly support and ordered husband to pay wife’s expert expenses. The trial court observed that the parties lived an “incredibly well or good lifestyle spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Husband appeals each of the trial court determinations and its observation about the parties’ lifestyle. We affirm, applying our deferential standard of review for fact findings. Wife’s expert, a letter from husband’s former employer and his own stipulation all support imputed income of $250,000. Wife presented evidence of her expenses and the decree states that the trial court considered all the statutory factors in determining support. Under Groves v. Commonwealth, 50 Va. App. 57 (2007), we do not focus on isolated statements of the trial judge; the record does not make clear that the trial court’s observation about the parties’ lifestyle affected the spousal support award. Ordering husband to pay wife’s expert expenses was within the discretion of the trial judge. Affirmed.

Armar v. Armar
(Powell) No. 2202-10-4, June 28, 2011, Arlington Cir. Ct. (Kendrick) Alan B. Soschin for appellant. VLW 011-7-220(UP), 6 pp.

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Tucker Griffin Barnes P.C.
Charlottesville, Virginia



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