Reichert v. Hornbeck, No. 0213

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtHOTTEN
Citation63 A.3d 76,210 Md.App. 282
PartiesJeffrey W. REICHERT v. Sarah H. HORNBECK, f/k/a Sarah H. Reichert.
Decision Date20 March 2013
Docket NumberSept. Term, 2012.,No. 0213

210 Md.App. 282
63 A.3d 76

Jeffrey W. REICHERT
v.
Sarah H. HORNBECK, f/k/a Sarah H. Reichert.

No. 0213, Sept. Term, 2012.

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

March 20, 2013.


[63 A.3d 82]


M. Evelyn Spurgin, (Hillman, Brown & Darrow, PA, on the brief), Annapolis, MD, for Appellant.

Sarah Hornbeck, Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.


Panel: ZARNOCH, HOTTEN, JAMES A. KENNEY, III, (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.1

HOTTEN, J.

[210 Md.App. 291]In this divorce action between Jeffrey W. Reichert (“Jeffrey”), the appellant-cross-appellee, and Sarah Hornbeck 1 (“Sarah”), the appellee-cross-appellant, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City granted a divorce on the grounds of a twelve-month separation, pursuant to Md.Code (1984, 2012 Repl.Vol.), § 7–103(a)(4) of the Family Law Article,2 and granted both [210 Md.App. 292]parties joint physical and legal custody of the child with tie-breaking authority to Sarah. The court declined to make any award of rehabilitative alimony to Sarah.

The court, however, ordered Jeffrey to pay $1,651 per month in prospective and retroactive child support. Because Jeffrey had contributed $500 per month in pendente lite child support prior to the absolute dissolution of the parties' marriage, the court credited him $4,806 in retroactive child support but, nevertheless, concluded he owed $15,006 in arrearages. As a consequence, the court ordered Jeffrey to pay an additional $500 per month in child support until the $15,006 in arrearages were satisfied. In addition, the court granted Jeffrey the right to claim the parties' minor child as a dependent for his 2011 taxes and every other year thereafter.

After reviewing the property the parties amassed during their eighteen-month marriage, the court found that the 2009 joint tax refund should have been equally divided into both Jeffrey and Sarah's accounts. As a consequence, the court concluded that because Jeffrey had wrongfully dissipated the entire amount of the refund, it was extant property. Therefore, the court designated half the amount of the refund ($3,100) Jeffrey's extant property. As a result, the court granted Sarah a monetary award in the amount of $7,000 and further awarded her $60,000 in attorney's fees.

Following the court's judgment of absolute divorce, Jeffrey filed a motion to alter or amend the court's judgment on October 27, 2011. In response, Sarah filed a motion in opposition and further moved to

[63 A.3d 83]

revise the court's previous judgment on November 16, 2011. The trial court held a hearing on February 21, 2012, and issued a memorandum and [210 Md.App. 293]order on March 30, 2012, leaving open the issue of whether Sarah was entitled to additional attorney's fees for the post-trial motions. As a result, the court held an additional hearing on April 13, 2012, denying her request for additional fees.

Jeffrey noted a timely appeal to this Court.3 In response, Sarah filed a timely cross-appeal. In sum, both parties presented six questions for our review. We have consolidated, rephrased, and reorganized them as follows: 4

1. Did the circuit court abuse its discretion when it ordered joint legal custody of the minor child with tie-breaking authority to Sarah Hornbeck and when it ordered joint physical custody of the minor child?

2. Did the circuit court err in its findings when it calculated the child support owed to the parties' minor child?

3. Did the circuit court err or abuse its discretion regarding the tax exemption for the parties' minor child?

4. Did the circuit court err in granting Sarah Hornbeck a monetary award in the amount of $7,000?

5. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in awarding Sarah Hornbeck $60,000 in attorney's fees?

[210 Md.App. 294]For the reasons outlined below, we affirm the Circuit Court for Baltimore City's judgment of absolute divorce and its grant of joint physical and legal custody, with tie-breaking authority to Sarah Hornbeck. Because we conclude, however, that the court erred in ordering Jeffrey to pay an unrealized amount of income, in ordering alternating years to the tax dependency exemption without the appropriate consideration, in the granting of a monetary award, and in ordering $60,000 in attorney's fees, we vacate those orders and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Sarah and Jeffrey first met in a restaurant on April 8, 2000. Jeffrey was a recent law school graduate and bar exam passee, working for Allegis Group as Associate General Counsel. At that time, Sarah was preparing for her matriculation to the University of Baltimore School of Law and contemplating a future career in legal practice. The couple dated for a little over three years until their initial breakup in

[63 A.3d 84]

the spring of 2003. The relationship ended shortly before Sarah's successful completion of her legal studies. Although both Sarah and Jeffrey attributed their initial breakup of 2003 to different factors, both parties characterized their initial relationship as “rocky.”

Nonetheless, Sarah and Jeffrey remained in contact with one another following the end of their initial relationship. Around April of 2008, the two agreed to meet for dinner.

Thereafter, the parties resumed their romance on and were engaged four months later. At that time, Jeffrey had proverbially moved-up the ladder at Allegis Group and was now earning approximately $125,000 a year as Group General Counsel for Allegis Group. In addition, he earned an additional amount from his work with the Army Reserves.

Shortly before the rekindling of their romance, Sarah was earning approximately $120,000 a year at Roy Kirby and Sons, [210 Md.App. 295]Inc. She left the company, however, shortly after the end of her prior failed engagement. She subsequently assumed employment with Thomson Reuters as a Westlaw Research Specialist on August 17, 2009, earning roughly $68,340 a year.

On November 1, 2008, Sarah and Jeffrey moved into a three-story rental property located at 1286 Harbor Island Walk, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. The parties were subsequently married in an elaborate ceremony at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church on January 31, 2009. At the time of the parties' marriage, Jeffrey was 35.5 Sarah was nearly 34.6 Shortly thereafter, the parties' honeymooned on St. Kitts, an island located in the West Indies formally known as St. Christopher Island. Unfortunately, the conflict that Sarah and Jeffrey had experienced during their first relationship returned on the second night of their honeymoon and would remain throughout their short marriage.

Despite the parties' many disagreements, Sarah bore a son, Grant Lyle Reichert (“Grant”), on November 7, 2009. Sadly, Grant was born with a collapsed lung, and spent the first three nights after his birth in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital. At approximately twenty-four to twenty-five days of age, Grant began vomiting. Unfortunately, Grant's vomiting progressively worsened, necessitating emergency surgery to correct his pyloric stenosis.7 Grant's medical complications have subsequently resolved.

[210 Md.App. 296]Sarah and Jeffrey found ways to work through their personal conflicts to attend to the needs of their child. However, once Grant's condition improved Sarah and Jeffrey's discourse resumed. Marriage counseling proved unsuccessful.

At the end of a counseling session on August 27, 2010, Sarah and Jeffrey departed separately. Fearing for her safety and for that of her son, Sarah attempted to

[63 A.3d 85]

obtain a protective order, but her request was denied. Sarah returned home to Grant, who was in the care of Sarah's mother. Later that evening, divorce and custody papers were delivered to Sarah. After Sarah contacted counsel, she was subsequently informed that Jeffrey had filed a protective order against her. In response, Sarah filed a counter complaint for limited divorce, custody, child support and other relief. She subsequently filed a timely answer to Jeffrey's complaint on September 24, 2010. The parties proceeded to litigate the matter for a series of months.

Trial commenced on September 20, 2011. At the close of trial on September 30, 2011, the circuit court issued its oral opinion, in which it granted a divorce on the grounds of a twelve-month separation, pursuant to Md.Code (1984, 2012 Repl.Vol.), § 7–103(a)(4) of the Family Law Article,8 and granted both parties joint physical and legal custody of the child with tie-breaking authority to Sarah. The court declined to make any award of rehabilitative alimony to Sarah.

However, the court ordered Jeffrey to pay $1,651 per month in prospective and retroactive child support. Because Jeffrey had contributed $500 per month in pendente lite child support prior to the absolute dissolution of the parties' marriage, the court credited him $4,806 in retroactive child support but concluded he, nevertheless, owed $15,006 in arrearages. As a consequence, the court ordered Jeffrey to pay an addition $500 per month in child support until the $15,006 in arrearages were satisfied. Additionally, the court granted Jeffrey the right to claim the parties' minor child as a dependent for his 2011 taxes and every-other year thereafter.

[210 Md.App. 297]The court subsequently addressed Sarah and Jeffrey's distribution of the marital property. Preliminarily, it noted that both Jeffrey and Sarah entered the marriage as property owners, each individually owning condominiums in Baltimore City, Maryland. Further, although the court acknowledged that the parties' retirement plans were marital property, it granted the retirement plans to the respective spouse for whom the plan was created. After reviewing additional property the parties' amassed during their eighteen-month marriage, the court found that the 2009 joint tax refund should have been equally divided into both Jeffrey and Sarah's accounts. As a consequence, the court concluded that because Jeffrey had wrongfully...

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87 practice notes
  • State v. Phillips, No. 457
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 20, 2013
    ...155, 43 A.3d 1007 (2012) (“Field preemption is implicated when an entire body of law is occupied on a comprehensive basis by a statute.”). [63 A.3d 76] There is no dispute that the State has heavily regulated the field of use, ownership, and possession of firearms.15[210 Md.App. 281]We hold......
  • Hiltz v. Hiltz, No. 1433
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 3, 2013
    ...parties during the marriage.” Md.Code (1984, 2012 Repl.Vol.), § 8–201(e)(1) of the Family Law Article, quoted in Reichert v. Hornbeck, 210 Md.App. 282, 349, 63 A.3d 76 (2013). See also Williams v. Williams, 71 Md.App. 22, 34, 523 A.2d 1025 (1987); Campolattaro v. Campolattaro, 66 Md.App. 68......
  • In re Hampers, No. 2012–696
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • June 24, 2014
    ...omitted), we hold that the burden of demonstrating the deductibility of such expenses is on him. See, e.g., Reichert v. Hornbeck, 210 Md.App. 282, 63 A.3d 76, 103 n. 11 (2013). The burden is properly on the partner because he or she has the ability to obtain information to establish the pro......
  • In re O.P., No. 2877, Sept. Term, 2018
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 29, 2019
    ...‘plenary authority to determine any question concerning the welfare of children within [its] jurisdiction.’ " Reichert v. Hornbeck , 210 Md. App. 282, 305, 63 A.3d 76 (2013) (quoting Bienenfeld v. Bennett-White , 91 Md. App. 488, 503, 605 A.2d 172 (1992) ).240 Md.App. 569 Therefore, "the be......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
87 cases
  • Hiltz v. Hiltz, No. 1433
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 3, 2013
    ...parties during the marriage.” Md.Code (1984, 2012 Repl.Vol.), § 8–201(e)(1) of the Family Law Article, quoted in Reichert v. Hornbeck, 210 Md.App. 282, 349, 63 A.3d 76 (2013). See also Williams v. Williams, 71 Md.App. 22, 34, 523 A.2d 1025 (1987); Campolattaro v. Campolattaro, 66 Md.App. 68......
  • In re Hampers, No. 2012–696
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • June 24, 2014
    ...omitted), we hold that the burden of demonstrating the deductibility of such expenses is on him. See, e.g., Reichert v. Hornbeck, 210 Md.App. 282, 63 A.3d 76, 103 n. 11 (2013). The burden is properly on the partner because he or she has the ability to obtain information to establish the pro......
  • State v. Phillips, No. 457
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 20, 2013
    ...155, 43 A.3d 1007 (2012) (“Field preemption is implicated when an entire body of law is occupied on a comprehensive basis by a statute.”). [63 A.3d 76] There is no dispute that the State has heavily regulated the field of use, ownership, and possession of firearms.15[210 Md.App. 281]We hold......
  • In re O.P., No. 2877, Sept. Term, 2018
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 29, 2019
    ...‘plenary authority to determine any question concerning the welfare of children within [its] jurisdiction.’ " Reichert v. Hornbeck , 210 Md. App. 282, 305, 63 A.3d 76 (2013) (quoting Bienenfeld v. Bennett-White , 91 Md. App. 488, 503, 605 A.2d 172 (1992) ).240 Md.App. 569 Therefore, "the be......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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