Rogers v. Rogers, Appellate Case No. 2017-002091

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtKONDUROS, J.
Citation851 S.E.2d 447,432 S.C. 168
Parties Laurie ROGERS, Appellant, v. George ROGERS and the Navy Federal Credit Union, Of Whom George Rogers is Respondent.
Docket NumberOpinion No. 5778,Appellate Case No. 2017-002091
Decision Date21 October 2020

432 S.C. 168
851 S.E.2d 447

Laurie ROGERS, Appellant,
v.
George ROGERS and the Navy Federal Credit Union,

Of Whom George Rogers is Respondent.

Appellate Case No. 2017-002091
Opinion No. 5778

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Heard July 21, 2020
Filed October 21, 2020


Nicole Nicolette Mace, The Law Offices of Curt Sanchez, P.A., of West Palm Beach, Florida, for Appellant.

Anita Floyd Lee, of Conway, for Respondent.

KONDUROS, J.:

432 S.C. 175

After a nineteen-year union, Laurie Rogers (Wife) filed for divorce from George Rogers (Husband). The family court granted the divorce on the grounds of one year's continuous separation, divided the marital estate 50/50, and awarded custody of the parties’ four children to Wife. Wife appeals various aspects of the equitable apportionment and the imposition of discovery sanctions against her. She contends the family court lacked jurisdiction because she was incompetent and the family court failed to appoint her a guardian ad litem (GAL). We affirm in part as modified, reverse in part, and remand.

FACTS/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Husband and Wife separated on November 29, 2015, and Wife retained custody of their children. On February 11, 2016, Wife filed an action for divorce on the ground of adultery,

432 S.C. 176

wherein she also requested alimony, custody, and child support. Husband filed an answer and counterclaim, agreeing the parties should divorce but denying adultery.

A temporary hearing was initially scheduled for March 8, 2016, but was continued until April 24, 2016. However, on March 11, 2016, the parties entered into a consent order for discovery and on March 14, 2016, Ryan Stampfle was appointed as GAL for the benefit of the parties’ children. Wife's attorney was relieved as counsel, and at the request of Wife's second lawyer, the hearing was rescheduled for June 9, 2016. At that time, the family court issued an order which provided, inter alia, that Husband would be responsible for child support in the amount of $1,286 per month and Wife would have possession of the parties’ home and would be responsible for the monthly mortgage obligation incidental thereto. Additionally, the court ordered that Wife present herself for a psychological evaluation and that the children immediately begin counseling with their father to address alienation concerns. The court also ordered a review hearing within sixty days. The GAL was charged with the responsibility of scheduling Wife's psychological evaluation as well as the counseling. Subsequent to this hearing, Wife dismissed her second attorney.

On June 21, 2016, Husband filed a motion to compel discovery responses. At the review hearing on August 26, 2016, Wife had still not appeared for the psychological evaluation, and the children had yet to begin counseling. Husband also scheduled his motion to compel discovery simultaneous with the review hearing. At this August 26, 2016 hearing, the parties agreed the former marital residence would be immediately placed on the market for sale; the children would immediately begin counseling with Hal Heidt; Wife would immediately present herself for a psychological evaluation with Douglas Ritz; and Wife would respond to discovery within ten days.

Because of the lack of progress between the hearings on June 9 and August 26, the family court ordered another hearing to be scheduled in October 2016. Unfortunately, that hearing was continued until December 8, 2016, due to inclement weather. Prior to the commencement of the December 8, 2016 hearing, Wife's counsel presented a doctor's excuse on behalf of Wife. She advised the court Wife was unable to

432 S.C. 177

attend the hearing

851 S.E.2d 452

and sought a continuance. Husband's counsel then informed the court she had also scheduled a motion to compel for the second time, as well as a rule to show cause for this date, though Wife had evaded service of process of the rule (the hearing date for the motion was served directly on Wife's counsel). The family court denied Wife's request for a continuance, concluding instead that Wife did not need to be present for the review hearing. The court then requested a progress report, after which the family court noted Wife had not completed her psychological evaluation, had thwarted counseling efforts, had withdrawn large amounts of cash from the parties’ bank account, and had transferred a large sum of money to a new location.

The court also determined Wife had severely damaged the parties’ home by removing and selling light fixtures, cabinets from walls, a toilet, and a majority of furnishings from the home. As a result of this hearing, the court ordered custody be immediately transferred to Husband, Wife pay the outstanding utility bills, and Wife immediately vacate the property. In addition, Wife was ordered to respond to all discovery requests by January 3, 2017. On about February 23, 2017, Wife's third lawyer was relieved as counsel. Husband returned the children to Wife after only one day and did not pay child support from that time forward. However, Husband assumed the mortgage obligation from the time of the December hearing until the time the home was sold. Husband testified he only returned the children because Wife had alienated the children to such an extent that Husband had absolutely no control of them, and actually feared them based upon their fabrications to the police.1

Mediation was thereafter scheduled for March 3, 2017, but Wife did not attend, claiming she had not received notice. Husband requested a final hearing, which was scheduled for May 18, 2017. On the date of trial, Wife appeared with her fourth lawyer, who moved for a continuance, claiming Wife

432 S.C. 178

had not been properly notified of mediation or the final hearing. The court determined Wife had been properly notified of mediation and that she had elected not to appear. The court acknowledged notice of the final hearing had been served on the parties’ daughter, so out of an abundance of caution, the trial was continued until July 10, 2017.

A hearing on Husband's motion to compel discovery and show cause was held on June 5, 2017. At the time of the June 5, 2017 hearing, Husband had received from Wife only copies of what he had presented at previous hearings. Accordingly, the court ruled that unless Wife complied with discovery requests by June 16, 2017, she would not be allowed to testify on the issues of alimony, child support, equitable apportionment, or attorney's fees, and she would not be allowed to offer any evidence regarding her income, alimony, or equitable apportionment. As of June 16, 2017, Wife had still not provided the requested bank statements; she had still not verified her income as had been requested; and she had still not produced full tax returns.

At the final hearing, the family court was notified Wife had moved marital funds into at least four separate accounts at the Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU), said accounts all being in Wife's name, though each account also bore an additional name, one for each of the parties’ four children. The NFCU accounts were opened with funds transferred from another account Husband discovered during the pendency of the action containing more than $200,000.

After Wife disclosed more specific information about the NFCU accounts, the court recessed the final hearing until the following morning, July 11, 2017. The family court ordered Wife to provide to Husband's counsel the names, account numbers, phone numbers, and any other pertinent information relative to these accounts. The family court further issued an order restraining Wife from transferring the funds, from dissipating the accounts, or from accessing these funds

851 S.E.2d 453

in any manner pending the issuance of a Final Order. Wife was also ordered to obtain a verified social security statement indicating how much she received from social security each month.

The following morning, Wife's counsel advised the court Wife had been hospitalized, and she requested a continuance.

432 S.C. 179

Husband then informed the court that after the previous day's hearing, Wife had driven to Charleston and attempted to withdraw the funds from the NFCU. However, NFCU had placed a temporary hold on the accounts, and Wife was denied access to the funds. After Wife returned from Charleston, she drove herself to the emergency room at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center.

Wife's request for a continuance was denied, and the court noted that even if Wife had been present, her ability to testify or present any evidence in regards to any of the contested issues would have been severely limited, based upon her refusal to comply with discovery after several orders to compel had been issued. This was based not only on the order following the June 5, 2016 hearing, but also the court's warning from the prior day of the final hearing wherein the court was still considering the severity of limitations it would place on Wife's testimony. The GAL...

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