In Re Marriage of Levinson: Issues Relating to Temporary Support & Possession of Marital Residence
June 18, 2015
Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve put pen to paper (or as in this case, fingers to keys, as it should be said these days I guess), and there has certainly been a lot out there that I’ve wanted to write about, but I absolutely felt compelled to blog about this one, because I was simply repugnated by the obscene amount of money this feuding couple has spent thus far in attorney’s fees in their divorce; and they’re not even done yet!!! I usually prefer to fill my blog with case summaries relating more to personal injury and workers’ compensation, because I devote more of my practice to those areas, but this beauty had to be tagged and flagged.
If you read the opinion, which can be found here, http://goo.gl/oeUzL, you will discover that this was the second interlocutory appeal (fancy phrase for an appeal before final disposition) these two intelligent people have filed before their divorce is even final!! According to the opinion, in 2 years of litigation, combined they exhausted over 1/2 million dollars!! And, it’s not even over!! 1/2 million dollars for a divorce that hasn’t even been finalized? As Jim Cramer would say on his show Mad Money, “What the Heck?” If money did grow on trees, these 2 fools burned a whole freaking forest of them there money trees. Now that’s some scorched earth litigation, baby!! Oh, and I don’t think I’m in jeopardy for calling these two fools for the whole world to see, because I believe that it was a Psalmist that told us “A fool is as a fool does”. In the first appeal, Husband appealed the trial court’s decision as to who would get temporary (yes, temporary), possession of their marital residence. Okay, let me first tell you a little bit about appeals. I’ve done a few, and they cost a lot of money. Here’s why. From my experience, I’ve estimated that a well written appeal will consume 80 to 100 hours worth of legal work. For our purposes, let’s assume that good Cook County legal counsel will bill $300 per hour. Do the math, and that’s $24k, if the appeal took 80 hours. Oh, and I’m sure that good Cook County legal counsel will far exceed that, as Bloomington rates aren’t that far from $300; in fact, I think some are billing at those rates.
So, continuing. Husband first appealed the trial court’s decision about who would get temporary possession of the marital residence. For those who don’t know, an Order of Temporary possession simply means you’re going to get to live there in your lovely home at least until the Court makes a final ruling as to who’s going to receive the marital residence in the Judgment of Dissolution. So, during the course of litigating that particular issue, I’m going to guess that Mr. Levinson burned through $100K in legal fees.
Then there’s the second appeal, the one which I’m writing about, and which was cited above. Husband receives an unfavorable ruling relating to the issue of interim attorney’s fees. Again, for those of you who might be reading this, and don’t know, interim means one party’s going to write the other party a check to the other’s attorney in most instances to more even the playing field for both litigants. At the conclusion of this battle at the trial level, Husband was ordered to pay Wife interim fees in the amount of $78,500 for Petitioner’s interim and prospective fees. Okay, time to do a little more arithmetic here folks. Husband is ordered to pay $78.5K in fees. What’s he tell his attorney(s) to do? “That judge’s full of a bunch of crap. Let’s appeal!!” In more simpler terms, as we’ve deducted from our math above, let’s burn $80K or more for a Judgment that told you to pay $78.5K.
Alright, this is the abridged version, of what happened, and here’s the point: just give me 100K, I’ll finalize your divorce, and you’ll still be $400K richer. Yes, you just GIVE IT TO ME and I’ll get you divorced. I’m not saying I’ll earn 100K or even do 100K worth of work, but you give it to me, and I’ll divorce you. There’s a catch though, and this is how it’s going to go down. Now, you give me full authority to make decisions for you, because obviously you can’t make them for yourselves. You may not like what I decide, but I’ll agree to be fair and unbiased, just as the judge is required to do. You may also not like what I decide, just as you may not like what the judge may ultimately decide, but you’ll still be $400K richer. Okay, I’m just kidding. Here’s the real point: well, maybe that was the real point. Anyway, as the trial judge so aptly put it, “The parties established a ‘1%-lifestyle’ standard of living during the marriage. They may have reduced expenses to some degree after 2008. However, since these proceedings began almost two years ago both parties have, consistent with that marital lifestyle, incurred over half a million dollars in attorneys’ and experts’ fees. Although they may say otherwise, the only reasonable inference from the parties’ conduct is that they both believe that the marital estate has sufficient assets to finance their litigation.”
Summarizing. This still very married couple likely collectively spent $200K deciding who would get to “temporarily” stay in, what I am sure is very nice and luxurious home. Wouldn’t $200K have bought or be a nice down payment on what would be another very nice and luxurious home? Wait, each of them wanted that particular home. Why? Maybe just for the simple fact that the other wanted it. I don’t presume to know. But, seriously? Then, again, there’s the appeal of the $78.5K award of interim fees. Didn’t your lawyer provide you an estimate of what that would likely cost? Oh, and that the standard on appeal is going to be an abuse of discretion? Meaning that you’re not likely going to win. Or to put it another way, YOU’RE GOING TO LOSE!! Again, this all boils down to simple mathematics. Instead of having two very nice luxurious homes, the two of you combined helped finance your attorney’s very nice and luxurious home. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t begrudge anyone in my business trying to make a living.
If you aren’t able to tell, I don’t want to represent people in cases such as this. Once I start hearing talk of nonsense and clearly vindictive motives, I lose interest. When your principle deviates greatly from your logic and your pocket book, I don’t want to represent you. Life’s too short; oh, and you, well, you’re just not that smart.
2013 IL App (1st) 121696
In fact, they went one step even further, and asked that the Illinois Supreme Court review their case. Levinson v. Levinson, 981 N.E.2d 998 (IL 2012)
date the parties paid fees, in approximate amounts, from (1) In its analysis of one of the factors the court is to consider when contemplating an award of interim fees, the amount of the payment or payments made or reasonably expected to be made to the attorney for the other party, the trial court wrote: It is undisputed that as of February 2012, over $100,000 has been paid to Petitioner’s attorneys, over $60,000 to Respondent’s attorneys, and over $30,000 to the court-appointed [**15] child representative. It is also undisputed that the parties have spent more than $40,000 on expert fees. Petitioner alleges that she has incurred additional fees in excess of $150,000. Respondent alleges that he has incurred additional fees in excess of $100,000. The child representative asserts that he is owed $39,925 for services through February 15, 2012. To tax refund income, $108,867, (2) other income, $12,995, (3) redit cards, $14,750, (4) loans, $21,750 ($10,000 from Petitioner’s family, $11,750 from Respondent’s family), and (5) Petitioner’s alleged non-marital assets, $78,500.
Actually, I could not locate the origins of this saying, but believed it to be in Psalms or Proverbs. Another commonly heard proverb says that “A Fool and his Money are Soon Parted.” Or wait, maybe it was Forrest Gump. Didn’t he say “stupid is as stupid does”?
A hearing the appellate court identified as being a “multiday” hearing. Levinson at p. 3.
Usually, one spouse will earn substantially more than the other, have access to more funds, control the funds, or has more earning power.
Levinson at p. 8
Of course I have no idea what he told his legal counsel. Maybe it was, “She’s a bleeping bleep. Let’s appeal” or “I ain’t given that *** a damn dime. Let’s appeal.”
Have they? Seems to me they’ve substantially increased them with all their bickering.
Levinson at pp. 6-7