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Saxon v. Lesueur

Court of Appeals of Virginia

December 17, 2013



Brian R. Moore (Phillips, Morrison, Johnson & Ferrell, on briefs), for appellant.

Marshall L. Ellett (Marshall L. Ellett, P.C., on brief), for appellee.

Present: Chief Judge Felton, Judge Kelsey and Senior Judge Bumgardner Argued at Richmond, Virginia.



Walter Edward Saxon, Jr. appeals a trial court order modifying a prior child-support award. Saxon claims the trial court provided inadequate written findings to justify the modification and that, in any event, nothing in the evidentiary record could have justified the award. We disagree with both assertions and affirm.


On appeal, "we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party, granting it the benefit of any reasonable inferences." White v. White, 56 Va.App. 214, 216, 692 S.E.2d 289, 290 (2010) (quoting Congdon v. Congdon, 40 Va.App. 255, 258, 578 S.E.2d 833, 835 (2003)). "That principle requires us to discard the evidence of the appellant which conflicts, either directly or inferentially, with the evidence presented by the appellee at trial." Hamad v. Hamad, 61 Va.App. 593, 596, 739 S.E.2d 232, 234 (2013) (internal quotation marks omitted).

So viewed, the record in this case shows that the parties agreed prior to the entry of their final divorce decree that Saxon would pay LeSueur child support at $750 per month beginning in January 2011. Saxon and LeSueur have three sons, and, at the time of the agreement, two of their sons were under the age of eighteen. The agreement authorized Saxon to seek a modification of the award any time after June 2011, when the middle son would turn eighteen. Absent such a request, Saxon was required to pay the $750 monthly support "even after the second child reaches the age of majority." App. at 256. In calculating the agreed-upon child-support award, the parties modified the presumptive statutory amount by excluding LeSueur's spousal-support award from the initial income calculation. Id. at 165, 193, 248, 298-99; see generally Code § 20-108.2(C) (requiring that spousal-support awards be factored into the payee's gross income and treated as a deduction in the payor's gross income).

The final divorce decree, entered in February 2012, restated and confirmed the parties' prior agreement that Saxon would pay $750 in monthly child support to LeSueur beginning in January 2011. Though the final decree does not mention it, Saxon had already filed a motion to modify support in September 2011. That motion remained inactive until the trial court heard evidence on the matter in December 2012.

At that hearing, Saxon requested a reduction in child support based on the fact that only one of their three sons remained under the age of eighteen. Saxon argued that the modification of child support should be calculated using the child-support guidelines in Code §§ 20-108.1(B) and 20-108.2, with no deviation from the presumptive amounts. In reply, LeSueur agreed the order should be modified but argued that she had incurred additional expenses justifying an upward departure from the presumptive amount of support under the guidelines.

At the time of the modification hearing, Saxon, a dentist, earned over $16, 000 in monthly gross income — more than twice as much as LeSueur, who worked as a high school teacher. App. at 294. They shared legal and physical custody of their remaining minor son, who, at the time of the hearing, was seventeen-and-one-half years old and a senior in high school.

LeSueur testified that she paid for unique expenses incurred for the benefit of their teenage son that, her counsel argued, were not fully compensated by the presumptive guideline amount. These expenses included costs associated with their son's attendance at student organization conventions, a trip to Texas with a student organization, extra clothing and footwear, school supplies, lunch money, meals following weekly football games, senior graduation announcements, standardized test registration fees, college application fees, and gas money for their son's use of her vehicle. LeSueur added that Saxon contributed no additional money for any of these items and that these "extra" expenses averaged $500 a month. Id. at 185-86.

Saxon argued that the presumptive guideline amount should be enough to reimburse LeSueur for any reasonable expenses. Any expenditure beyond that, he contended, should be deemed a gratuity on ...

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