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Goodman v. Goodman

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 6, 2018

Russell Goodman, Appellant-Respondent,
Stephanie Goodman, Appellee-Petitioner.

         Appeal from the Sullivan Circuit Court The Honorable Lakshmi Reddy, Special Judge Trial Court Cause No. 77C01-1502-DR-117

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Leanna Weissmann Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

          Riley, Judge.


         [¶1] Appellant-Respondent, Russell Goodman (Husband), appeals the trial court's Order dissolving the marriage between Husband and Appellee-Petitioner, Stephanie Goodman (Wife).

         [¶2] We affirm.


         [¶3] Husband presents us with seven issues on appeal, which we restate as:

(1) Whether the trial court abused its discretion by deviating from the presumption of an equal division of marital assets;
(2) Whether the trial court abused its discretion by omitting to offset the value of certain marital assets already in Wife's possession from the marital estate;
(3) Whether the trial court abused its discretion by including goodwill as a marital asset;
(4) Whether the trial court abused its discretion when valuating certain assets of the marital estate;
(5) Whether the trial court abused its discretion by awarding physical custody of the minor child to Wife;
(6) Whether the trial court abused its discretion by ordering Husband to pay child support retroactively; and
(7) Whether the trial court abused its discretion by ordering Husband to pay a portion of Wife's attorney fees.


         [¶4] When divorce proceedings span more than half a decade, it is reasonable to assume that this was not an amicable breakup. Exploiting the judicial system to its fullest, the parties caused the trial court to enter two hundred and thirty-six entries in the chronological case summary since March 9, 2015 alone. Over the last two years, the trial court issued ninety-two orders and ten income withholding orders. Instead of aiding the trial court in reaching its decision by submitting the customary excel spreadsheet with the proposed allocation of assets, the trial court had to wade through a box of loose exhibits and puzzle together the parties' marital estate. We are very grateful for the detailed findings of fact and conclusions thereon issued by the trial court which brought this herculean task to an end.

         [¶5] Husband and Wife married on June 24, 1995, and both had children from previous relationships. While no children were born during the marriage, the parties adopted Husband's natural granddaughter, K.G., born on November 5, 2006. Around March 2012, Wife and K.G. moved out of the marital residence and Wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage on March 12, 2012. On May 30, 2012, the trial court entered a joint temporary restraining order. On July 26, 2012, the parties submitted a Provisional Agreed Order, which was approved by the trial court on July 31, 2012, and which included the following provisions:

a. [Wife] with primary custody of [K.G.] and [Husband] to exercise parenting time pursuant to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. [Husband] to pay child support in the amount of $110.00/week.
b. [Husband] to have temporary possession of the marital residence at 7834 S. Pleasant Main, Carlisle, Indiana 47838 and shall not be permitted to allow any other individuals to reside within the marital residence until further order by the court.
c. [Husband] shall be responsible for all debts in his name individually and all debts associated with the business A1 Affordable Goodman's Tree Service. [Wife] shall be responsible for all debts in her name individually and any joint debts shall be allocated at the final hearing.
d.[Wife] was to be paid $9, 500.00 for the Chevy Camaro within ten (10) days from July 5, 2012, and if she was not paid, then the parties were to trade and/or sell said vehicle to a dealership for a vehicle of [Wife's] choosing and [Wife] was to maintain full possession and title of the new vehicle of her choosing. If any financing was required, [Wife] would be responsible for the debt associated with the new vehicle.
e. The parties were to inventory the personal items within the marital residence and amicably divide temporary possession of the personal property and if they were unable to agree, then the property was to remain in the marital residence. [Wife] was entitled to her clothes, [K.G.'s] toys, and [K.G.'s] bedroom suite.
f. [Husband] shall be responsible for the operation and expense of A1 Affordable Goodman's Tree Service. [Husband] shall be entitled to temporary possession of all assets of A1 Affordable Goodman's Tree Service in order to dutifully operate said business.

(Trial Court's Order, p. 5).

         [¶6] For the next five years, the parties engaged in fierce and relentless litigation, filing more than one-hundred-and-seventy pleadings resulting in the issuance of ninety-two orders. Finally, by agreement, the marriage was dissolved on December 2, 2015, with bifurcation of the issues regarding the division of marital assets, apportionment of marital debt, and establishment of custody, parenting time, and K.G.'s support arrangements. On December 4, 2015, Wife filed a Verified Motion for Order to Produce Documents, contending that Husband failed to respond to discovery requests and produce the requested documents. Wife alleged that she requested discovery on August 14, 2015 and on August 24, 2015, but each time Husband produced the same non-responsive and handwritten responses without attaching the supporting documents. The discovery dispute was never resolved as Wife continued to indicate that she did not receive all the documents requested and Husband argued that he properly responded and produced all documents in his possession.

         [¶7] The trial court conducted a final hearing over seven non-consecutive days: May 15 & 27, 2016, August 22 & 23, 2016, December 14, 2016, and February 22, 2017. During these hearings, the trial court received evidence concerning Husband's one-hundred-and-six pleadings filed over the past two years and Wife's sixty-four pleadings filed in the same time period. The evidence presented during the proceedings reflected that during the marriage, Husband and Wife both worked in their tree trimming business. Despite receiving an income from the business, the family was on government health insurance, received food stamps, and qualified for free/reduced school lunches and textbooks. Testimony suggests that Husband had complete and total financial control during the marriage over the parties' personal and business possessions, with ownership of all property placed in his name.

         [¶8] Both Husband and Wife were gamblers: they often purchased lottery tickets and visited the casino in Evansville. Over the years, Husband accrued significant winnings from gambling. In 2009, Husband won a scratch off lottery ticket in the amount of $100, 000. While Wife testified that there was at least $70, 000 left in a lock box at the time of filing the divorce proceeding, Husband claimed that he and Wife lost all the money gambling, eating in five star restaurants, and purchasing a $20, 000 Camaro for Wife. Family members stated that Husband would often hide money in shoe boxes and mattresses and kept a very low balance in a checking account.

         [¶9] Despite having received parenting time in accordance with the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, by February 2015, Wife was always present during Husband's parenting time. The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) noted, in a February 2015 report, that the parties frequently did things together as a family. Wife indicated that she attended the visits because K.G. was afraid to stay alone. However, after two in camera interviews of K.G., the trial court did not find evidence that K.G. was fearful of Husband, "but did determine that [K.G.] has been coached and influenced by [Wife]." (Trial Court Order, p. 28). The trial court clarified that "[m]uch like [Husband] has engaged in a pattern and behavior of hiding financial assets, the [c]ourt believes that [Wife] has been less than truthful in [K.G.'s] feelings towards her father and has tried to discourage and prevent a meaningful relationship between [K.G.] and [f]ather." (Trial Court's Order, p. 29).

         [¶10] On May 16, 2017, after receiving evidence for seven days, the trial court issued its Order, spanning forty-nine pages, including one-hundred and sixty findings of fact and ninety conclusions of law. The trial court concluded, in pertinent part, as follows:

6. This [c]ourt deviates from the presumption of equal division of assets because there is such a large disparity of income and because [Husband] has engaged in dissipation of assets. While [Husband's] income tax returns for several years provide that his income was nominal and a net income of less than $20, 000, this [c]ourt finds that to be contrary to the evidence presented. Documentation submitted by [Wife] for the year 2013, demonstrates that [Husband] was receiving checks in large amounts written in his individual name and that [Husband] cashed these checks at the payor's bank, rather than depositing into his business account. [Husband] did not provide any bank statements to rebut this or to show where these checks were deposited and how the money was used. The [c]ourt also believes that [Husband] engaged in dissipation of assets because he has no real good explanation of what happened to all his lottery and casino winnings or engaged in dissipation of assets by using such large amounts of discretionary income to gamble rather than paying debts, timely paying child support, or have some type of savings for their future. In addition, the [c]ourt believes that [Husband] has engaged in a pattern of hiding assets and not turning over documentation that was reasonably requested on numerous occasions and the [c]ourt believes that there are assets that [Husband] has not disclosed and so an unequal distribution seems only reasonable and fair under the circumstances.
7. For the foregoing reasons, the [c]ourt awards [Wife] Sixty Percent (60%) of the assets and [Husband] Forty Percent (40%). [Husband] can continue to earn tremendous income through his business as he has done for decades and/or through his gambling efforts which he appears to be very successful at based upon his income tax returns. His income tax returns are not reflective of all his gambling winnings and may not be reflective of any lottery winnings. Any and all debts in [Husband's] name and any and all business debts shall be the responsibility of [Husband] as the [c]ourt finds no reasonable explanation for these debts not to have been paid when he had so much discretionary income to gamble.
* * * *
24. The total value of marital assets to be allocated is Three Hundred Thirty Two Thousand Eight Hundred Thirty Nine and 00/100 Dollars ($332, 839.00). In order to provide [Wife] with 60% of the marital assets, [Huband] will have to make an equalization payment to [Wife] in the amount of One Hundred Ninety Nine Thousand Seven Hundred Three and 40/100 Dollars ($199, 703.40). Because this matter has been pending for five (5) years, the [c]ourt believes that the best course of action and to conserve judicial economy so the parties are not constantly returning to [c]ourt for collection purposes, the [c]ourt hereby reduces this property settlement to a judgment . . .
* * * *
31. [] A trial court has discretion to make a modification of child support relate back to the date the petition to modify is filed, or any date thereafter. The [c]ourt sees no reason to use any other date for child support modification other than the date that [Wife] filed her Petition to Modify. Accordingly, the child support is modified retroactive to May 24, 2013.
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33. Accordingly, [Husband's] child support payment of $320/week is modified retroactive to the date of filing, which is May 24, 2013. Because it took the parties so long to reach the point where they could litigate this issue, [Husband] now has a substantial arrearage. As stated already, the reason for this long delay rests with the actions of both parties. [Husband] repeatedly failed to fully respond to discovery requests and provide necessary financial information, which to this day has still not been produced. [Wife] was not diligent on numerous occasions on bringing the matter to the [c]ourt's attention until just days before a scheduled hearing making it too late to attempt to remedy the dispute before having to continue and reschedule hearings. Additionally, [Husband] made efforts to hide assets and/or dissipate assets and knowing how much income he was earning, [Husband] should have known all along that his child support should have been significantly more than the $110/week.
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51. [Wife] is hereby awarded sole legal custody due to the inability of the parties to communicate in any reasonable and effective manner. However, [Husband] has the right to all information regarding [K.G.] and [Wife] is to follow the recommendations of GAL [] to insure that [Husband] has all such information and that the school and medical providers have his contact information. [Wife] is hereby cautioned that it will reflect negatively on her if the [c]ourt discovers that [Wife] is failing or refusing to provide school, medical, extra-curricular or relevant information regarding [K.G.] to [Husband]. It would be in [K.G.'s] best interest if someday these parties reach a point where they can better communicate and both be involved in important decisions regarding [K.G.].
52. [Wife] is hereby awarded primary physical ...

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