Widman v. Widman

Decision Date10 December 2001
Docket NumberNo. 3416.,3416.
Citation557 S.E.2d 693,348 S.C. 97
PartiesDale P. WIDMAN, Respondent/Appellant, v. Richard T. WIDMAN, Appellant/Respondent.
CourtSouth Carolina Court of Appeals

Robert N. Rosen, of Rosen, Goodstein & Hagood, of Charleston, for appellant/respondent.

Margaret D. Fabri, of Charleston, for respondent/appellant.

HUFF, Judge.

This is a cross appeal in a divorce action. The issues on appeal concern identification and valuation of marital property, equitable apportionment, child support, and contempt. We affirm in part, reverse in part and remand.


Richard T. Widman (Husband) and Dale Poulnot Widman (Wife) were married in 1981 on Valentine's Day. When they married, Husband was thirty-two years old and Wife was twenty-five years old. Husband earned a Masters of Business Administration in hotel and restaurant management at Michigan State University and worked as the General Manager of the Mills House Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina. Wife graduated magna cum laude from Duke University and worked in her family's business, Kerrison's Department Store.

Husband, who worked for Holiday Inn in a management position, received a job transfer to Detroit, Michigan, and after they were married, Wife joined Husband in Detroit. Wife's father subsequently requested that Wife come back to the family business. The parties agreed, and Wife moved back to Charleston in August of 1981. Husband continued to work for Holiday Inn, and the parties commuted for a period of time, until Husband quit his job and moved back to Charleston in the summer of 1982. After his return, Husband joined a venture to build King's Courtyard Inn in downtown Charleston. The inn was opened in November 1983 and was managed by Husband. During the early years, Husband earned money through some consulting work and drew a minimal salary for managing the inn. Thus, toward the beginning of the marriage, Wife generally earned greater income than Husband. This changed drastically, however, after Husband's venture in King's Courtyard Inn and several subsequent hotel inns began to reap substantial profits. During the marriage, the parties accumulated a $6,720,000.00 marital estate consisting of numerous inns and related businesses worth more than $5,000,000.00, two marital homes with equity of more than $900,000.00, as well as various stocks, bonds, life insurance, and pension plans. Additionally, Husband's annual income grew to approximately $450,000.00 while Wife's annual income remained around $40,000.00. During the development years of the inns, Husband used earned income of the parties and distributions from ownership of the inns to reinvest into the businesses in order to promote their growth and viability. The inns are set up as limited partnerships with Husband as the general partner, which gives Husband the discretion of when to make a distribution from revenues and the amount of each distribution. Husband maintained control of the businesses' cash flow and the parties' income. Even after the inns were established and producing significant income, Husband continued to use his income and distributions to support the business. Money flowed freely between the business and personal accounts of the parties. Loans were made to the businesses from the parties' joint personal checking account; partnership shares were purchased out of the parties' joint personal checking account; and money was borrowed from the businesses to keep the family finances afloat. In addition, the personal and business accounts of the parties were used interchangeably by the parties.

Wife had no day-to-day responsibilities for the inns; however, she hosted several openings of new inns and entertained Husband's business associates. At Husband's insistence, Wife traveled with him out of the country, at the expense of her own professional responsibilities to Kerrison's. Wife also participated in the designing and writing of marketing brochures for the inns, and worked on a project for the Rutledge House Inn. Husband continually assured Wife that "the inns were their retirement."

Husband's parents made significant investments in the inns and advanced $75,000.00 to the parties for development of one of the businesses. However, these were arm's length transactions. Husband's parents appear to have profited from the investments, and they obtained a note and mortgage on the parties' beach home as collateral for the $75,000.00 loan. At the time of trial, the parties were still obligated to make monthly payments to repay this loan. Additionally, Husband's parents made generous monetary gifts over the years to Husband, Wife and the parties' children. Husband's father testified as to the various monetary gifts made to the parties over the years, and stated that many of the gifts were intended to help Husband in his business ventures. Husband's father testified, however, that all of the gifts were joint gifts to Husband and Wife. The gifted monies were not kept separate and apart from marital funds. The check registers of various accounts show that money was used from any and all sources to support the cash flow of the businesses. Moreover, Husband's parents never asserted prior to litigation that the gifted monies were for anything other than the benefit of both parties and the support of the marriage.

During the marriage, Husband inherited $192,000.00 from his aunt's estate. Husband testified he used some of these funds to purchase two shares of stock in the inn businesses. One share of stock was purchased from Ronald Hutcherson in the John Rutledge House. The other share was purchased from the Gary Olin Trust in the King's Courtyard Inn. Wife also owned nonmarital property which included 26 shares of Kerrison's stock, valued at $100,000.00, a 1/3rd interest in the carriage house located behind her parent's home in downtown Charleston, and a 1/9th interest in an unimproved lot on Sullivan's Island.

Husband and Wife have three daughters, all three of whom were minors at the time of trial. Husband also has an adult daughter from a prior marriage. The parties employed a housekeeper/nanny to assist with the children and housework, but both parties contributed substantially to the needs of the children in the home. All three girls attend a private school, Ashley Hall School, where Wife is currently employed as the Director of Development. The tuition for all three girls is $2,050.00 per month. The children also attend summer camps in North Carolina every year, which cost between $1,815.00 and $2,810.00 per child each summer.

Husband instituted this action in November 1997, after Wife's investigator confirmed Husband's adulterous affair with Linn Lesesne, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the management company formed by Husband to manage all the inns. Wife first became suspicious of the affair in October 1996 and confronted Husband on several occasions, but Husband continued to deny the relationship. Husband and Wife separated in April 1997, but began going to marriage counseling in an effort to save their marriage. However, Husband continued his affair with Linn Lesesne. Upon receiving the report from the investigator in August of 1997, Wife waited until Husband returned from a trip to confront him with the report. Husband continued to deny the affair until a couple of weeks later. The marriage counselor testified that he believed Wife had been emotionally abused by Husband during the marriage and that Wife was more active in attempting to save the marriage.

Husband filed this action seeking, inter alia, joint custody of the parties' three minor children, or in the alternative extensive visitation, a determination of reasonable child support, and equitable division of the marital property. Husband also sought a temporary order restraining Wife from harassing him or interfering with his right to a peaceful existence, as well as from using vulgar, profane language or making disparaging remarks about him in the presence of his children.

Wife answered and counter-claimed seeking, among other things, a divorce on the ground of adultery, custody, child support, alimony, equitable apportionment of marital property, and an order restraining Husband from exposing their children to his extramarital relationship and from selling or encumbering marital property. Wife also sought attorneys' fees and costs for litigation of the divorce.

By temporary order dated June 23, 1998, the court awarded Wife temporary custody of the children, $15,000.00 monthly in temporary total support, and $25,000.00 for attorney and expert fees. The court also awarded visitation for Husband as agreed to between the parties and required Husband to keep the minor children out of the presence or proximity of his paramour pending the divorce and to attend and complete a session of the "Consider the Children" program.

Each side filed motions to hold the other in contempt for failure to comply with the court's orders compelling discovery and for violating orders of protection. The parties agreed to have these issues addressed at the final hearing. Additionally, the parties agreed to bifurcate the issue of attorneys' fees and costs.

The final hearing began on February 16, 1999 and concluded on February 19, 1999. By final order dated March 19, 1999, the trial judge granted Wife a divorce on the ground of adultery. Wife was also awarded one-half of the marital estate, which the court valued at $6,720,000.00, custody of the minor children, and child support in the amount of $3,500.00 per month. Wife did not receive an alimony award. However, Husband was ordered to execute a note and mortgage payable to Wife covering the majority of Wife's share of the marital estate, totaling $2,451,042. The court further ordered Husband to pay the note and mortgage over a 240-month period at 6%...

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