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Russell v. Russell

January 26, 1999

DONALD B. RUSSELL APPELLANT
v.
BECKY D. RUSSELL APPELLEE



Before McMILLIN, P.j., Coleman, And Payne, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMILLIN, P.j.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/18/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WOODROW WILSON BRAND JR.

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: CLAY COUNTY CHANCERY COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - DOMESTIC RELATIONS

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DIVORCE GRANTED. WIFE AWARDED HOME, AUTO, VARIOUS OTHER ITEMS OF REALTY AND PERSONALTY, $50,000.00 START-UP ALIMONY AND $5,000.00/MO. PERIODIC ALIMONY, CUSTODY OF CHILD AND SUPPORT THEREOF AT $500.00/MO.

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED

¶1. Becky Russell was awarded a divorce from Donald Russell on the ground of adultery. In the judgment of divorce, the chancellor addressed multiple matters relating to finances that are a necessary part of the dissolution of a marriage. Donald Russell, convinced that the chancellor manifestly abused his discretion in fashioning the financial relief to be afforded Becky Russell, has appealed that aspect of the case to this Court. We find the determination of the chancellor to be supported by competent evidence and within the range of discretion granted to the chancellor in such matters. We, therefore, affirm the judgment.

I. Facts

¶2. Becky and Donald Russell were married in 1983. At the time, Becky Russell was a licensed nurse earning in the range of $30,000 per year. Donald Russell was an undergraduate student. After the marriage, Donald Russell completed undergraduate school and attended medical school. During this time, Becky Russell continued to be employed and contributed her income toward the support of the family. After graduation from medical school, Dr. Russell established a medical practice in Clay County specializing in radiology. In 1994, the proof indicated that the medical practice produced gross income of $270,449. In the next year, the gross income from Dr. Russell's medical practice increased to $327,546. Testimony at trial indicated that, based on gross income in that range, Dr. Russell would have after-tax disposable income of approximately $13,000 per month.

¶3. Mrs. Russell worked in her husband's medical clinic in a managerial and clerical capacity and was paid an amount consistent with her income range as a nurse. This money was intended for use solely by her for whatever purposes she desired. Dr. Russell was responsible for payment of the normal and customary living expenses of the parties.

¶4. A child was born to the couple in 1984.

¶5. Mrs. Russell continued her employment relationship with Dr. Russell's clinic after their marital difficulties arose by virtue of an order resolving temporary features pending the trial of the divorce on the merits. However, in the final divorce judgment, the chancellor found that the forced continuation of this employment relationship was not in the best interest of the parties. Thus, as of the date of the divorce, Mrs. Russell became unemployed.

ΒΆ6. During the course of the marriage, the parties accumulated certain assets. Principal among them was a home valued in the range of $135,000 to $155,000 which was subject to an outstanding mortgage of approximately $90,000 to $95,000 which carried payments of about $1,000 per month. The chancellor concluded that the parties had approximately $40,000 in equity in the home. Mrs. Russell was driving a 1992 Lexus valued at $20,000 which was subject to a loan with a balance approximately the same as the vehicle's value. Several older vehicles were owned free and clear of any liens. Dr. Russell had a retirement account carrying a balance of about $89,000. The parties had also accumulated a ski boat, a bass boat, and a camper. No attempt was made to place a value on Dr. Russell's medical clinic as a going business beyond the proof indicating the gross income derived from his practice except for evidence ...


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