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Fredrickson v. Schulze

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

April 13, 2016

Malia Ann Fredrickson, Respondent,
v.
Jeffrey Lawrence Schulze, Appellant

         Heard December 7, 2015.

          Appeal From Greenville County. W. Marsh Robertson, Family Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2014-000570.

         Christian Stegmaier, of Collins & Lacy, P.C., of Columbia, for Appellant.

         Bruce Wyche Bannister and Luke Anthony Burke, both of Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC, of Greenville, for Respondent.

         SHORT, J. GEATHERS and MCDONALD, JJ., concur.

          OPINION

         SHORT, J.

         Jeffrey Lawrence Schulze (Husband) appeals the family court's divorce decree, arguing the court erred in (1) its identification, valuation, and apportionment of the marital estate and (2) ordering Malia Ann Fredrickson (Wife) and Husband to be responsible for his and her own attorney's fees. We affirm.

         FACTS

         Husband and Wife were married in 2005. Husband and Wife relocated to Greenville, South Carolina, and Husband began working as an independent insurance agent. Husband also managed properties titled in Wife's name and the couple's limited liability company, JFS, LLC (JFS), named after the parties' son's initials. Husband's highest level of education is a high school General Education Development (GED) diploma with some college classes. Wife is a dentist and a partner in two dental practices. Wife earned eighty-four percent of the parties' income during the marriage. The couple has one son.

         Wife filed for divorce on the ground of habitual drunkenness. Prior to trial, Wife amended her complaint to include adultery. Husband countersued for divorce on the ground of one-year's separation.

         A trial was held on November 12 and 13, 2013. The family court entered its final order and decree on January 10, 2014. The court granted a divorce, ordered equitable apportionment of the estate, ordered Husband to pay monthly child support to Wife, and denied both parties' requests for attorney's fees. The court also found Husband in contempt of a prior order regarding communication between the two parties during the pendency of the proceedings. Husband filed a motion pursuant to Rules 52 and 59, SCRCP, seeking alteration and/or amendment of the final order. Wife also filed a motion to reconsider. On February 11, 2014, the court issued an order addressing the cross-motions and modifying certain valuations of the marital properties. These modifications increased Husband's share of the marital estate by $5,200 and Wife's share of the marital estate by $5,407. Husband appeals both orders.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

          " In appeals from the family court, this [c]ourt reviews factual and legal issues de novo." Simmons v. Simmons, 392 S.C. 412, 414, 709 S.E.2d 666, 667 (2011). " [T]he appellate court has jurisdiction to find facts in accordance with its view of the preponderance of the evidence. However, this broad scope of review does not require this [c]ourt to disregard the findings of the family court." Lewis v. Lewis, 392 S.C. 381, 384, 709 S.E.2d 650, 651 (2011) (quoting Eason v. Eason, 384 S.C. 473, 479, 682 S.E.2d 804, 807 (2009)). This court will affirm the decision of the family court unless the decision is controlled by an error of law or the appellant satisfies the burden of showing the preponderance of the evidence supports contrary factual findings. DiMarco v. DiMarco, 399 S.C. 295, 299, 731 S.E.2d 617, 619 (Ct.App. 2012).

         LAW/ANALYSIS

         I. Marital Estate

         Husband argues the family court erred in its identification, valuation, and apportionment of the marital estate. We disagree.

          Section 20-3-620(B) of the South Carolina Code (2014) provides fifteen factors for the family court to consider in apportioning marital property and affords the family court the discretion to give weight to each of these factors as it finds appropriate:

(1) the duration of the marriage together with the ages of the parties at the time of the marriage and at the time of the divorce or separate maintenance or other marital action between the parties;
(2) marital misconduct or fault of either or both parties, whether or not used as a basis for a divorce as such, if the misconduct affects or has affected the economic circumstances of the parties, or contributed to the breakup of the marriage; provided, that no evidence of personal conduct which would otherwise be relevant and material for purposes of this subsection shall be considered with regard to this subsection if such conduct shall have taken place subsequent to the happening of the earliest of:
(a) entry of a pendente lite order in a divorce or separate maintenance action;
(b) formal signing of a written property or marital settlement agreement; or
(c) entry of a permanent order of separate maintenance and support or of a permanent order approving a property or marital settlement agreement between the parties;
(3) the value of the marital property, whether the property be within or without the State. The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation in value of the marital property, including the contribution of the spouse as homemaker; provided, that the court shall consider the quality of the contribution as well as its factual existence;
(4) the income of each spouse, the earning potential of each spouse, and the opportunity for future acquisition of capital assets;
(5) the health, both physical and emotional, of each spouse;
(6) the need of each spouse or either spouse for additional training or education in order to achieve that ...

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