Stoney v. Stoney, 082918 SCCA, 5593

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtMcDONALD, J.
JudgeWILLIAMS and GEATHERS, JJ., concur.
PartiesLori Dandridge Stoney, Appellant, v. Richard S.W. Stoney Sr., Defendant/Respondent, and Theodore D. Stoney Jr., Third-Party Intervenor/Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2011-203410
Date29 August 2018
Docket Number5593

Lori Dandridge Stoney, Appellant,

v.

Richard S.W. Stoney Sr., Defendant/Respondent,

and

Theodore D. Stoney Jr., Third-Party Intervenor/Respondent.

Appellate Case No. 2011-203410

No. 5593

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

August 29, 2018

Submitted May 4, 2018

Appeal From Orangeburg County Peter R. Nuessle, Family Court Judge

J. Michael Taylor, of Taylor/Potterfield, and Peter George Currence, of McDougall & Self, LLP, both of Columbia, for Appellant.

Charles H. Williams, of Williams & Williams, of Orangeburg, for Respondent Theodore D. Stoney Jr.

Donald Bruce Clark, of Donald B. Clark, LLC, of Charleston, and James B. Richardson Jr., of Columbia, for Respondent Richard S.W. Stoney Sr.

McDONALD, J.

In this marital litigation, Lori Dandridge Stoney (Wife) separately appealed two family court orders. Upon our initial consideration of Wife's consolidated appeals, we reversed several findings of the family court and remanded for a new trial. Stoney v. Stoney, 417 S.C. 345, 790 S.E.2d 31 (Ct. App. 2016). Richard S.W. Stoney Sr. (Husband) and Theodore D. Stoney Jr. (Brother) each petitioned for a writ of certiorari. Our supreme court granted the writs, dispensed with further briefing, reversed, and remanded the case to this court "to decide the appeal applying the appropriate standard of de novo review articulated in Lewis v. Lewis, 392 S.C. 381, 709 S.E.2d 650 (2011)." Stoney v. Stoney, 422 S.C. 593, 813 S.E.2d 486 (2018).1 We reverse and remand to the family court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On October 12, 1996, Husband and Wife married in Berkeley County. Prior to the marriage, the parties entered into a prenuptial agreement.2 The parties have one child together (Child).3

At the beginning of the marriage, Husband and Wife practiced law together; however, Wife began her own practice in 1997. Around this time, the parties opened a restaurant called the Boathouse at Breach Inlet (BHBI)4 on the Isle of Palms, and Husband eventually stopped practicing law to focus on the restaurant. Wife's practice of law also became subordinate to the family's needs and operation of the parties' business ventures.5

BHBI was very successful from the time it opened, and it became the source from which Husband financed his other ventures. Husband purchased four other restaurants and various businesses during the course of the marriage, making "loans" from BHBI to the new entities. These businesses were managed by Husband's company, Crew Carolina.

The couple's second restaurant was the Boathouse at East Bay Street (BHEB) in downtown Charleston. Although BHEB broke even, Husband closed the restaurant in January 2009. As of December 31, 2008, BHEB had a net asset value of negative $141, 048. Husband and Brother jointly owned the real property on which BHEB was located.6

In 2003, the couple opened the Boathouse at Lake Julian (BHLJ) in Asheville, North Carolina, which closed in July 2008. As of December 31, 2008, BHLJ had a net asset value of negative $1, 297, 939, which included an allocation of $474, 792.78 of a Carolina First/DI Carolinas consolidation loan. In 2004, the couple purchased Carolinas, an existing restaurant located on Exchange Street in downtown Charleston, which they subsequently renovated. As of December 31, 2008, Carolinas had a net asset value of $89, 539. Husband sold Carolinas7 in January 2010 for over $550, 000.8 Additionally, Husband advanced funds and assisted a third-party with opening Choto, a restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee.9

In February of 2009, the parties opened their final restaurant, the Boathouse at Ellis Creek (BHEC), which burned to the ground one month later. Husband received over $850, 000 in insurance proceeds during the first year the parties were separated; however, he did not use this money to rebuild the restaurant.10 Instead, these funds were used to satisfy obligations to other creditors and business partners. This account was drained by the time of trial. In his testimony, Husband explained, "every dime that I received for Ellis Creek was used to offset the massive amount of debt we had, and I believe that the forensic accountants have well covered that fact. . . . I am doing everything I can to rebuild Ellis Creek." Throughout the trial, Husband referred to "robbing Peter to pay Paul" to keep creditors at bay and allow certain businesses to continue operating.

Husband started three additional businesses shortly after Wife filed for divorce: Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar, J & S Fish, LLC, and Rice Market.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On April 23, 2009, Wife filed an action for divorce seeking sole custody of Child, child support, alimony, equitable division, and other relief. By consent order dated May 15, 2009, the family court approved a change of venue from Charleston County to Orangeburg County. That same day, the family court approved a consent order sealing the record.

On June 18, 2009, Husband filed an answer and counterclaim, seeking joint custody of Child, enforcement of a prenuptial agreement, equitable division of the marital property and debt, and certain other relief. In addition, Husband sought the imputation of income to Wife and to pay reasonable child support pursuant to the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines.

On July 10, 2009, Wife filed a reply and counterclaim, admitting she had signed a prenuptial agreement, but alleging it had been lost. On this same date, the Honorable Anne Gue Jones entered a temporary order. This temporary order adopted an agreement titled, "Consent Order Regarding Certain Child Issues," which, among other things, awarded custody to Wife and prohibited Husband from exposing Child to his paramours. The other issues raised remained contested. The court granted Wife exclusive use and possession of the couple's condominium in Charleston, and required Husband to pay Wife approximately $22, 000 per month for Wife and Child's expenses. On February 26, 2010, a supplemental temporary order was issued, relieving Husband of certain obligations required by the July 10, 2009 temporary order.

On January 5, 2010, Brother filed a motion to intervene to protect his interests in certain real property, business concerns, and debts he asserts he is owed. The court granted Brother's motion to intervene by order dated February 22, 2010, finding "[Brother]'s interest in this action outweighs any privacy interest that [Wife] asserts. . . . [T]he interests of [Brother] and the property which is the subject of this action cannot be adequately protected because of the [Husband]'s tenuous financial condition."

On March 4, 2010, Brother filed a third-party complaint, requesting, among other things, a determination by the court that his loans to Husband (and to the parties on behalf of Husband) constituted marital debt. Husband answered Brother's complaint on March 4, 2010, admitting all of Brother's claims and joining in the relief sought by Brother. Wife answered on March 29, 2010, asserting she had insufficient information to admit or deny the allegations. On August 2, 2010, the family court issued a consent order relieving Husband's counsel. From this point through the two-week trial, Husband acted pro se. During the pendency of this action, Husband was held in willful contempt with regard to four petitions and one supplemental petition for rules to show cause, and an additional rule remains unresolved. Specifically, Wife initially filed two petitions for rules to show cause (Rule 1 and Rule 2a), and a supplemental petition (Rule 2b). Rule 1, Rule 2a, and Rule 2b were resolved by order dated February 25, 2010, in which the family court found Husband in willful contempt for failing "to make payments under the Temporary Order, while he had funds to pay for other personal expenses on his behalf."

Wife filed a third rule to show cause (Rule 3) against Husband on January 11, 2010, regarding a criminal domestic violence situation involving Brother and Husband that resulted in physical injury to Wife in Child's presence. On March 29, 2010, the family court found Husband to be in willful contempt. Additionally, the court required counseling for Husband and Child, appointed a parenting coordinator, and authorized Wife to tape her phone conversations with Husband.

Wife filed two additional petitions for rules to show cause (Rule 4 and Rule 5). In Rule 4, issued on June 29, 2010, Wife alleged that Husband failed to pay her regime fees, Wife and Child's uncovered medical/dental expenses, Child's private school expenses, and certain credit card obligations. In Rule 5, issued on October 8, 2010, Wif e alleged Husband exposed Child to his paramour in violation of a specific restraining order.11 Both Rule 4 and Rule 5 were resolved by order dated January 6, 2011, in which the family court again held Husband in willful contempt. Husband was sentenced to ninety days, suspended upon payment of the required expenses mentioned above, as well as a payment of $3, 000 in attorney's fees to Wife's counsel.

Several motions, including Husband's January 25, 2011 motion to declare the contempt purged, were resolved by order dated March 24, 2011. In the March 24th order, the family court accepted Wife's agreement that Husband could purge his contempt sentence, based upon his assertion that he had made arrangements for support payments, as well as Husband's payment of the $3, 000 in attorney's fees previously ordered. In that same order, the court denied Husband's motion to sell or pledge up to ten percent of his interest in BHBI as well as Wife's motion to either purchase BHBI or be awarded complete control over the day-to-day operations of the business. In a separate order, the family court required Husband and Wife to each contribute $5, 000 toward a joint court-appointed CPA by March 25, 2011.

The two-week trial was held March 28-April 1, 2011, and May 23-27, 2011. When the trial started, Wife...

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