Bojilov v. Bojilov, Appellate Case No. 2015-000991

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtWILLIAMS, J.
Parties Susan Schaefer BOJILOV, Respondent/Appellant, v. Blago Metodiev BOJILOV, Appellant/Respondent.
Docket NumberOpinion No. 5595,Appellate Case No. 2015-000991
Decision Date19 September 2018

425 S.C. 161
819 S.E.2d 791

Susan Schaefer BOJILOV, Respondent/Appellant,
v.
Blago Metodiev BOJILOV, Appellant/Respondent.

Appellate Case No. 2015-000991
Opinion No. 5595

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Heard December 5, 2017
Filed September 19, 2018


T. Ryan Phillips, of the Law Office of T. Ryan Phillips, of Charleston, for Appellant/Respondent.

Gregory S. Forman, of Gregory S. Forman, P.C., of Charleston, for Respondent/Appellant.

WILLIAMS, J.:

425 S.C. 170

In this domestic relations matter, Blago Metodiev Bojilov (Husband) appeals the family court's final divorce decree, arguing the court erred in (1) awarding Susan Schaefer Bojilov (Wife) $200 per month permanent periodic alimony, (2) awarding Wife sole legal and physical custody of the parties' minor child (Son), (3) awarding Wife discretion in obtaining a passport for Son, (4) classifying Husband's Bulgarian Fibank account as a marital asset, (5) apportioning Husband insufficient equity in the marital residence, and (6) awarding Wife $30,000 for attorney's fees. Wife cross-appeals, asserting the family court erred in (1) apportioning Wife insufficient equity in the marital residence; (2) not including Husband's unaccounted-for funds in the equitable distribution; (3) making Wife pay Husband his equitable distribution in post-tax, non-retirement assets; and (4) not awarding Wife attorney's fees

425 S.C. 171

incurred while defending Husband's motion to reconsider. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Husband and Wife married in Berkeley County, South Carolina, on August 8, 1998. When the parties married, Husband was a Bulgarian citizen and sought asylum in the United States. In lieu of asylum, Husband voluntarily returned to Bulgaria in February 1999 and returned to the United States in

819 S.E.2d 797

March 2001. Wife remained in South Carolina and resided at 104 Duncan Court—a residence Wife purchased from her previous husband in 1988. In February 2001, Wife paid the remaining $36,000 she owed on the 104 Duncan Court mortgage with inheritance Wife received from her father.1 In October 2006, Wife sold 104 Duncan Court and utilized $100,000 of the sale proceeds towards the down payment for the parties' new residence.

Wife obtained an associate's degree in Automotive Technology and in the Arts. Wife worked throughout the marriage, except for periods of unemployment for fourteen months in 2010 and 2011, and for two months in 2013. Husband received some post-secondary education in Bulgaria and obtained various certificates in South Carolina. Husband earned the majority of the parties' income during the marriage. However, due to income from a trust that represented the majority of Wife's inheritance from her parents (the nonmarital Brown Advisory accounts), the parties' net incomes were similar. Throughout the marriage, Husband's Bank of America bank statements exhibited numerous deposits in the $400 to $1,000 range, all of which were unreported in Husband's financial declarations. In 2011, Husband opened a bank account with Fibank in Bulgaria. Husband contended the opening deposit of $32,120 was a nonmarital gift from his parents to hold in trust for his parents' care. Husband failed to disclose the Fibank account in his initial interrogatory answers and financial declaration.

The couple had one child from the marriage; Son was twelve years old at the time of the divorce hearing. Due to his autism spectrum disorder (autism ) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Son required substantial care and thrived

425 S.C. 172

on stability. Despite Son's considerable care needs, Husband traveled to Bulgaria annually, leaving Wife and Son for three or more weeks at a time.2 Husband also engaged in an extra-marital affair including overnight stays with his paramour.

On August 13, 2013, Wife filed an action in family court, seeking a divorce on the grounds of adultery;3 alimony; sole legal and physical custody of Son; child support; equitable division of the marital estate; certain restraining orders; and an award of attorney's fees and costs. Husband answered and counterclaimed, seeking joint custody; Wife's cooperation in obtaining a passport for Son to go to Bulgaria; equitable division of the marital estate; certain restraining orders; and an award of attorney's fees and costs.

At trial, witness testimony revealed Husband and Wife often disagreed on the appropriate schooling and medical treatment for Son's special needs. Husband advocated for completely mainstreaming Son in school and discontinuing Son's ADHD medications. Conversely, Wife agreed with educational and health provider suggestions that Son remain in certain special needs classes and continue his ADHD medications. Husband claimed that he and Wife also disagreed on the appropriate diet, exercise, and sleep regimen for Son. However, Husband did not adhere to the diet he proposed for Son, nor did he maintain Son's sleep schedule. Dr. Poon, Son's developmental behavioral pediatrician, testified medical staff reported that Husband tried to intimidate them by showing up at the medical facility without an appointment. The guardian ad litem (GAL) also testified that Son's medical and educational providers reported to the GAL that on certain occasions Husband was confrontational when he disagreed with them.

On January 29, 2015, the family court issued a final divorce decree, granting Wife a divorce on the ground of Husband's adultery. The court found Husband's testimony was not credible and believed Husband consistently presented false evidence through his affidavits, financial declarations, deposition testimony, and trial testimony. With the exception of the

425 S.C. 173

marital residence, the court awarded a 50/50 equitable apportionment of the marital estate. With regard to the marital

819 S.E.2d 798

residence, the court apportioned 60% to Wife and 40% to Husband. Moreover, the court awarded Wife exclusive use, possession, and ownership of the marital residence; sole legal and physical custody of Son; and instructed that Wife was not required to obtain a passport for Son.

Wife reported a gross income of $2,882.17 per month from wages with a total gross monthly income of $3,990.07 when adding Wife's inheritance interest from the nonmarital Brown Advisory accounts. The court noted Wife had invaded the nonmarital Brown Advisory accounts during the last few years of the marriage for household expenses, and Wife's interest in the accounts would continue to decline if she had to invade them post-separation. The court found that Husband grossly overstated his post-separation monthly expenses, and as evident from Husband's bank statements, that Husband earned at least $200 per month in additional income from odd side jobs that he failed to list on his financial declarations.4 After imputing an additional income of $200 per month to Husband, which brought Husband's monthly gross income to $3,420.53, the court ordered Husband to pay $200 per month to Wife in permanent periodic alimony. In addition, the court ordered Husband to pay $512 per month in child support. Further, the court awarded Wife $30,000 in attorney's fees and costs related to the divorce action.

Thereafter, Husband and Wife each filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment. The family court denied both motions on March 30, 2015. The family court also denied Wife's request for attorney's fees and costs for defending Husband's motion to alter or amend. This cross-appeal followed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The appellate court reviews decisions of the family court de novo. Stoney v. Stoney , 422 S.C. 593, 596, 813 S.E.2d 486, 487 (2018) (per curiam). In a de novo review, the appellate court is free to make its own findings of fact but must remember the family court was in a better position to make credibility determinations.

425 S.C. 174

Lewis v. Lewis , 392 S.C. 381, 385, 709 S.E.2d 650, 651–52 (2011). "Consistent with this de novo review, the appellant retains the burden to show that the family court's findings are not supported by a preponderance of the evidence; otherwise, the findings will be affirmed." Ashburn v. Rogers , 420 S.C. 411, 416, 803 S.E.2d 469, 471 (Ct. App. 2017). On the other hand, evidentiary and procedural rulings of the family court are reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Stoney , 422 S.C. at 594 n.2, 813 S.E.2d at 486 n.2.

LAW/ANALYSIS

I. Husband's Appeal

On appeal, Husband argues the family court erred in (1) awarding alimony to Wife, (2) awarding Wife sole custody of Son, (3) awarding Wife discretion in obtaining a passport for Son, (4) apportioning Husband insufficient equity in the marital residence, (5) classifying Husband's Bulgarian bank account as a marital asset, and (6) awarding Wife attorney's fees. We address each argument in turn.

A. Alimony

...

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9 practice notes
  • Grp. III Mgmt., Inc. v. Suncrete of Carolina, Inc., Appellate Case No. 2015-002584
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 19, 2018
    ...North Carolina law or applying North Carolina law incorrectly, such error does not rise to the level of manifest disregard of the law. 819 S.E.2d 791See Trident Tech. Coll. , 286 S.C. at 108, 333 S.E.2d at 787 (holding manifest disregard of law "presupposes something beyond a mere error in ......
  • Jackson v. Jackson, Appellate Case No. 2016-001208
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 9, 2020
    ...error in distributing marital property, that error will be deemed harmless if the overall distribution is fair. " Bojilov v. Bojilov , 425 S.C. 161, 184, 819 S.E.2d 791, 804 (Ct. App. 2018) (quoting Doe v. Doe , 370 S.C. 206, 214, 634 S.E.2d 51, 55 (Ct. App. 2006) ).A. Marital DebtHusband p......
  • Thornton v. Thornton, Appellate Case No. 2016-001177
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 23, 2019
    ...costs, the [family] court can use this as an additional basis" in its decision of whether to award attorney's fees. Bojilov v. Bojilov , 425 S.C. 161, 185, 819 S.E.2d 791, 804 (Ct. App. 2018). This court has found the same equitable considerations that apply to attorney's fees also apply to......
  • Burdeshaw v. Burdeshaw, 2020-UP-105
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 8, 2020
    ...shall make the final custody determination in the best interest of the child based upon the evidence presented."); Bojilov v. Bojilov, 425 S.C. 161, 176, 819 S.E.2d 791, 800 (Ct. App. 2018) (alterations in original) ("In making its custody determination, '[t]he family court must consider th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • Grp. III Mgmt., Inc. v. Suncrete of Carolina, Inc., Appellate Case No. 2015-002584
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 19, 2018
    ...North Carolina law or applying North Carolina law incorrectly, such error does not rise to the level of manifest disregard of the law. 819 S.E.2d 791See Trident Tech. Coll. , 286 S.C. at 108, 333 S.E.2d at 787 (holding manifest disregard of law "presupposes something beyond a mere error in ......
  • Jackson v. Jackson, Appellate Case No. 2016-001208
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 9, 2020
    ...error in distributing marital property, that error will be deemed harmless if the overall distribution is fair. " Bojilov v. Bojilov , 425 S.C. 161, 184, 819 S.E.2d 791, 804 (Ct. App. 2018) (quoting Doe v. Doe , 370 S.C. 206, 214, 634 S.E.2d 51, 55 (Ct. App. 2006) ).A. Marital DebtHusband p......
  • Thornton v. Thornton, Appellate Case No. 2016-001177
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 23, 2019
    ...costs, the [family] court can use this as an additional basis" in its decision of whether to award attorney's fees. Bojilov v. Bojilov , 425 S.C. 161, 185, 819 S.E.2d 791, 804 (Ct. App. 2018). This court has found the same equitable considerations that apply to attorney's fees also apply to......
  • Burdeshaw v. Burdeshaw, 2020-UP-105
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 8, 2020
    ...shall make the final custody determination in the best interest of the child based upon the evidence presented."); Bojilov v. Bojilov, 425 S.C. 161, 176, 819 S.E.2d 791, 800 (Ct. App. 2018) (alterations in original) ("In making its custody determination, '[t]he family court must consider th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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