Eason v. Eason, No. 26714.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtWaller
Citation682 S.E.2d 804,384 S.C. 473
PartiesCharlean L. EASON, Appellant/Respondent, v. Fredrick W. EASON, Respondent/Appellant.
Decision Date31 August 2009
Docket NumberNo. 26714.
682 S.E.2d 804
384 S.C. 473
Charlean L. EASON, Appellant/Respondent,
v.
Fredrick W. EASON, Respondent/Appellant.
No. 26714.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Heard June 24, 2009.
Decided August 31, 2009.

[682 S.E.2d 805]

Kenneth C. Porter, of Porter & Rosenfeld, of Greenville, for Appellant-Respondent.

J. Falkner Wilkes, of Greenville, for Respondent-Appellant.

Justice WALLER.


This is a cross-appeal from the family court's order which granted appellant/respondent Charlean L. Eason ("Wife") and respondent/appellant Fredrick W. Eason ("Husband") a divorce based on one year's continuous separation. We reverse in part and remand on Wife's appeal. As to Husband's appeal, we affirm pursuant to Rule 220(b)(1), SCACR.

FACTS

The parties married on November 29, 1973 and separated on October 26, 2003.1 On October 31, 2003, Wife filed a complaint in family court seeking legal separation and alimony ("the 2003 Action"). Husband filed an answer and counterclaim in the 2003 Action.

Mediation for the 2003 Action was conducted in September 2004, and a number of issues were settled. In the written mediation agreement, the parties each reserved "the right to seek alimony from the other until such time as [Wife] is fully employed with benefits,2 at which time this reservation will terminate."

A few months later, the parties signed a written agreement ("the Agreement") which had been prepared by Husband's lawyer and stated the following:

Both parties agree that they will not seek a divorce on the grounds of adultery; they will proceed with divorce on the grounds of living separate and apart in excess of one year. The parties also agree that neither party will use adultery as a bar to alimony.

Further, both parties agree to be equally responsible for college tuition and costs for their son.

(Emphasis added). The Agreement referenced the case number associated with the 2003 Action. Husband signed this document on December 29, 2004, and Wife signed on January 7, 2005.

Also on January 7, 2005, Wife filed a divorce complaint ("the 2005 Action").3 The 2005 Action sought a divorce based on continuous separation for one year. Wife requested alimony, both pendente lite and permanently, as well as attorney's fees. Husband promptly filed an answer and counterclaim, also requesting a divorce based on continuous separation for one year. The family court issued a temporary order awarding Wife spousal support in the amount of $1,236.00 per month, which represented one third of Husband's gross pay at the time.

Over one year later, however, Husband filed a motion to amend his answer. Husband's amended answer and counterclaim requested a divorce on the ground of adultery and also alleged that Wife was in a relationship "tantamount to marriage." Husband claimed Wife should be denied alimony. The family court granted his motion to amend.

In March 2007, the family court held a final hearing. At the hearing, the parties admitted the mediation agreement from the 2003 Action, stating that all issues had been resolved except for alimony and attorney's fees with respect to the 2005 Action.4 The family court approved the mediation agreement, and it was incorporated into the final order.

Wife testified that she no longer works as a nurse due to her depression.5 Her treating

682 S.E.2d 806

psychiatrist testified by deposition that Wife has major depression, an anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder. In his opinion, Wife is medically unable to work. In February 2007, Wife applied for Social Security disability benefits. According to her financial declaration, her only income is the temporary alimony from Husband. Husband testified that he has worked for the railroad for 34 years. According to his financial declaration, he earns $3,600.00 per month.

Regarding the Agreement, Husband testified that he directed his attorney to prepare it. Husband further explained as follows:

Me and [Wife] talked, and we were supposed to get a divorce like adults. I didn't want my children embarrassed by us going by adultery, knowing that their mama had adultery—committed adultery and I had adultery. And I thought we was just going to get [the divorce] on the conclusion that we'll both go our separate ways. I didn't know I was signing a paper for her to be with a man. I didn't know I was giving her a license to cheat.

Husband acknowledged he was about to move in with his girlfriend when he signed the document.

According to Wife, Husband asked her to sign the Agreement because "he wanted to move in with his girlfriend, [and] he didn't want me to seek the divorce on the grounds of adultery. And because I had no problem with him doing that, I didn't mind signing the paper." Wife maintained she did not commit adultery prior to signing the paper, and would not have had sex with anyone but for the Agreement.

Husband attempted to establish that Wife was continuously living with her boyfriend, Calvin Moss.6 Wife and Moss met in May 2004 and became intimate in February 2005. In exchange for helping Wife maintain her three trailer properties and repair her cars, Moss lives in one of Wife's trailers without paying rent. Both Moss and Wife admitted that although they had lived together at times, they never cohabited for more than two through four weeks at a time. Moss testified they do not have any financial arrangements together. Both Moss and Wife testified that their relationship is not exclusive and they date other people. In addition, the parties' 27-year-old son ("Son") testified he had not witnessed his mother and Moss cohabiting for 90 continuous days.

Husband raised questions about Wife's decrease in utilities usage, such as water and gas, and introduced copies of the utilities bills to suggest that Wife was not actually living at the trailer she said she was. Wife, Son, and Moss testified that she turned off the utilities and used kerosene lamps in an attempt to save money.

The family court issued a written order barring Wife from receiving alimony because Husband established by clear and convincing evidence that Wife and Moss had been in an adulterous relationship since early 2005. Regarding Wife's argument that the Agreement estopped Husband from requesting alimony be denied, the family court found the Agreement was an unenforceable contract and in contravention of public policy. The family court specifically declined to rule on the statutory issue of whether Wife and Moss resided together for a period of 90 days or more. See S.C.Code Ann...

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54 practice notes
  • Lewis v. Lewis, No. 26973.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 9, 2011
    ...evidence. However, this broad scope of review does not require this Court to disregard the findings of the family court.” Eason v. Eason, 384 S.C. 473, 479, 682 S.E.2d 804, 807 (2009) (citations omitted). More recently, we held that “[a]n appellate court should approach an equitable divisio......
  • Burch v. Burch , No. 27060.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • December 1, 2011
    ...confidentiality by agreeing to voluntarily submit the various offers of settlement for the court's consideration. See Eason v. Eason, 384 S.C. 473, 480, 682 S.E.2d 804, 807 (2009) (a waiver is a voluntary and intentional abandonment or relinquishment of a known right) (citations omitted); L......
  • McKinney v. Pedery, Appellate Case No. 2013–002601.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 26, 2015
    ...position to make credibility determinations.” Lewis v. Lewis, 392 S.C. 381, 384–85, 709 S.E.2d 650, 651–52 (2011) (quoting Eason v. Eason, 384 S.C. 473, 479, 682 S.E.2d 804, 807 (2009) ). “Questions concerning alimony rest within the sound discretion of the family court judge whose conclusi......
  • McKinney v. Pedery, Appellate Case No. 2013-002601
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 26, 2015
    ...to make credibility determinations." Lewis v. Lewis, 392 S.C. 381, 384-85, 709 S.E.2d 650, 651-52 (2011) (quoting Eason v. Eason, 384 S.C. 473, 479, 682 S.E.2d 804, 807 (2009)). "Questions concerning alimony rest within the sound discretion of the family court judge whose conclusi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
54 cases
  • Lewis v. Lewis, No. 26973.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 9, 2011
    ...evidence. However, this broad scope of review does not require this Court to disregard the findings of the family court.” Eason v. Eason, 384 S.C. 473, 479, 682 S.E.2d 804, 807 (2009) (citations omitted). More recently, we held that “[a]n appellate court should approach an equitable divisio......
  • Burch v. Burch , No. 27060.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • December 1, 2011
    ...confidentiality by agreeing to voluntarily submit the various offers of settlement for the court's consideration. See Eason v. Eason, 384 S.C. 473, 480, 682 S.E.2d 804, 807 (2009) (a waiver is a voluntary and intentional abandonment or relinquishment of a known right) (citations omitted); L......
  • McKinney v. Pedery, Appellate Case No. 2013–002601.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 26, 2015
    ...position to make credibility determinations.” Lewis v. Lewis, 392 S.C. 381, 384–85, 709 S.E.2d 650, 651–52 (2011) (quoting Eason v. Eason, 384 S.C. 473, 479, 682 S.E.2d 804, 807 (2009) ). “Questions concerning alimony rest within the sound discretion of the family court judge whose conclusi......
  • McKinney v. Pedery, Appellate Case No. 2013-002601
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 26, 2015
    ...to make credibility determinations." Lewis v. Lewis, 392 S.C. 381, 384-85, 709 S.E.2d 650, 651-52 (2011) (quoting Eason v. Eason, 384 S.C. 473, 479, 682 S.E.2d 804, 807 (2009)). "Questions concerning alimony rest within the sound discretion of the family court judge whose conclusi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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