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Manson v. Manson

Court of Appeals of Virginia

December 27, 2013

MARTHA F. MANSON
v.
JOSEPH L. MANSON, III JOSEPH L. MANSON, III
v.
MARTHA F. MANSON

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF FAIRFAX COUNTY Michael F. Devine, Judge

Joseph A. Condo; Ryan M. Witkowski; Elizabeth C. Szabo; The Condo Law Group, P.C., on briefs, for Martha F. Manson.

David R. Clarke; Jennifer L. McCammon; Blankingship & Keith, P.C., on briefs, for Joseph L. Manson, III.

Present: Judges Petty, Chafin and Senior Judge Annunziata.

MEMORANDUM OPINION [*]

PER CURIAM

Martha F. Manson (wife) and Joseph L. Manson, III (husband) appeal an order denying husband's motion to modify spousal support and denying wife's request for attorney's fees. Wife argues that the trial court erred by denying (1) "an award of attorney's fees and costs to Wife in reliance on Va. Code § 20-109 and Rutledge v. Rutledge, 45 Va.App. 56 (2005)"; (2) "an award of attorney's fees and costs to Wife pursuant to Va. Code § 20-99"; (3) "an award of attorney's fees and costs to Wife pursuant to other applicable law"; and (4) wife's motion for reconsideration.[1] Husband argues that the trial court erred by denying his request for a reduction of spousal support "because there was no evidence to support the court's finding that [husband's] reduction in income was voluntary." Upon reviewing the record and briefs of the parties, we conclude that these appeals are without merit. Accordingly, we summarily affirm the decision of the trial court. See Rule 5A:27.

BACKGROUND

The parties married on September 8, 1973 and divorced on August 12, 2005. On June 30, 2005, the parties entered into an agreement resolving all issues, except spousal support and attorney's fees. Pursuant to paragraph 6(a) of their marital settlement agreement (MSA), "[t]he issue of spousal support payable by the Husband to the Wife is hereby reserved for determination by the Circuit Court of Fairfax County at a trial scheduled to take place on July 18, 2005." Paragraph 20 of the MSA stated:

a. The parties' respective claims for counsel fees and costs associated with the dissolution of the marriage are reserved for adjudication by the court on July 18, 2005.
b. Either party shall be entitled to reasonable counsel fees incurred in securing the adherence of the other party to the terms of this Agreement.

Following a hearing on spousal support and attorney's fees, the trial court ordered husband to pay wife $16, 500 per month in spousal support, after the sale of the former marital residence. Per the final decree, husband had to pay wife $15, 000 toward her attorney's fees.

At the time of the parties' divorce, husband was employed as an attorney at BakerHostetler, LLP (BakerHostetler) and was president of DBM Group, Inc. (DBM). Husband founded DBM in 1998 as a subchapter S corporation that initially provided financial advice to clients in an effort to acquire Asian-owned hotel properties. During his employment at BakerHostetler, husband generated over $5, 000, 000 in legal fees through his contacts with DBM. In 2011 and 2012, husband worked on litigation matters, separate from work generated by DBM. Husband explained that many of those cases settled, which caused a drop in his billable hours.

In January 2012, husband's income at BakerHostetler decreased to $500, 000.[2] He petitioned the court for a reduction in spousal support. On July 6, 2012, the parties entered into a consent order, which reduced husband's monthly spousal support obligation to $13, 000.

In 2012, husband's billable hours continued to decrease. He spent more time trying to develop a deal in Brazil. In December 2012, BakerHostetler terminated husband's employment; however, he was able to negotiate a ...


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