As a family law attorney, no one need tell you how valuable your CFL Designation for Divorce Practitionersis in giving you the advanced financial knowledge and skills you need to handle the most complex divorces. But no one likewise need tell you that courts can do pretty much whatever they want in issuing a divorce decree. Despite your best efforts on behalf of your client, you may need to file an appeal.
Such was the situation resolved by the Supreme Court of Nevada in the very recent case of Herzog v. Herzog. Here the district court, as part of its divorce decree, had ordered Shaun Herzog to pay $4,400 in retroactive child support to Kellie Herzog and ongoing child support in the amount of $200 per month for the couple’s two children. To satisfy Shaun’s child support obligations, the court allowed his work tools to be sold. Due to his incarceration at the time of the divorce, the court likewise severely limited Shaun’s “visitation” with the couple’s younger daughter, allowing him only one letter per month and no telephone communication at all. Shaun appealed the amount of the retroactive and ongoing child support, the sale of his work tools, and his severely limited visitation with his younger child.
The Child Support Amount Issue
The Supreme Court of Nevada declined to address Shaun’s appeal of the district court’s retroactive and ongoing child support amounts, holding that the record indicated that he had said at trial that he was “‘okay with’ the $100 per child amount or whatever other amount the court deemed appropriate.” Because of this, the Court held that issues not challenged at the trial level cannot be challenged for the first time on appeal. Therefore, the Court affirmed this part of the district court’s divorce decree.
The Work Tools Issue
The Supreme Court opinion makes no mention of either the crime for which Shaun had been convicted or the length of his incarceration period. The Court held that the district court had not abused its discretion in finding that Shaun had no way to satisfy his child support obligations other than by a sale of his work tools. The Court likewise held that since Nevada is a community property state, the district court had not abused its discretion in ordering the sale of Shaun’s tools purchased during the course of the marriage. It therefore affirmed this part of the district court’s divorce decree.
The Visitation Issue
The Supreme Court found that there had been substantial evidence before the district court of Shaun’s repeated domestic violence against both Kellie and the couple’s older child, but none against the younger daughter. In fact, the evidence showed that Shaun and this daughter had a loving parent-child relationship. Nevertheless, the district court had decreed Shaun’s severely limited visitation with this child based on Kellie’s testimony that “it was her ‘impression’ that the younger child’s therapist thought it was not in the child’s best interest to have visitation or contact with Shaun.” Said therapist had not appeared at the divorce hearing due to illness, but had submitted a letter to the court which had been excluded from evidence. Given this district court record, the Supreme Court found that the district court had abused its discretion in ordering such restricted visitation and reversed and remanded this part of its divorce decree.
The moral of the story? Whatever financial and other strategies you take on behalf of your divorce clients, it is in their best interests that you counter and rebut to the greatest extent possible any testimony presented by any witness during trial.
For more information on how gaining your CFL Designation for Divorce Practitioners gives you the financial knowledge and skills you need to attract additional high-asset clients, plus other benefits of AACFL membership, please visit this page of our website.