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LaFontaine v. LaFontaine

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

February 15, 2019

Christopher J. LaFontaine
Yvonne D. LaFontaine

          Appeal from Lee Circuit Court (DR-16-900104)

          MOORE, JUDGE.

         Christopher J. LaFontaine ("the former husband") appeals from a judgment entered by the Lee Circuit Court ("the trial court") to the extent that it amended a judgment divorcing him from Yvonne D. LaFontaine ("the former wife"). We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Procedural History

         On March 29, 2016, the former wife filed a complaint seeking a divorce from the former husband; that action was assigned case number DR-16-900104. The former wife asserted:

"[D]uring the [parties'] marriage (a) she provided travel expenses in the sum of $9, 500 for [the former husband's] child from [his] first marriage, (b) paid child support for [the former husband] in the sum of $2, 300.00 due to he was unemployed at that time ..., (c) [the former wife] and [the former husband] had a mutual agreement that he [would] pay back student loans in the sum of $28, 750.00 that were taken out to pay household bills, (d) [the former husband] [had agreed to] reimburse [the former wife] monies that [had been] used to pay household bills when [the former husband] walked out of the marriage in the sum of $9, 250.00.
"8. [The former wife] further states that during the marriage, [the former wife] and [the former husband] enter[ed] into a rental lease agreement, (a) [the former husband] decided to vacate leaving [the former wife] to solely provide for her and his half in the sum of $5, 490.00, (b) [the former husband] cut utilities off in his name leaving a balance of $214.32."

         The former wife requested that the trial court divorce her and the former husband, that the trial court grant "any other relief that she is entitled to," and that the trial court order the former husband to pay her $660 monthly until such time as he had reimbursed her, in full, for the travel-expense, child-support, loan, and rental-agreement amounts she was requesting.

         Following ore tenus proceedings, the trial court entered a judgment on May 11, 2017, divorcing the parties and providing, in pertinent part:

"The Court finds from the evidence that the parties entered into an agreement that during the marriage [the former wife] would remain employed by the U.S. Army and support the parties while the [former husband] went to school to finish his education, and thereafter the [former husband] would become and remain employed and support the parties while the [former wife] then separated from the U.S. Army and completed her education. The Court finds that the [former wife] upheld her end of the bargain and the [former husband] did not reciprocate. The evidence at trial established that the [former husband] only reported approximately $10, 000 in total income during two of the four and a half years while the parties were married and living together. The Court finds that while employed full time and continuously, the [former wife], in addition to providing the overwhelming portion of monetary support for the parties, spent approximately $15, 000 during this time on [the former husband's] child-support obligations ($5, 400) and related child-visitation-travel expenses ($9, 500) for and on behalf of the [the former husband's] child by a prior relationship. The Court acknowledges that the [the former wife] benefitted from a portion of the money spent on travel, as she traveled on some of the trips. In addition, the Court finds that during the marriage, the [former wife] borrowed sums of money, approximately $54, 000, solely in her name, the loan proceeds for which were used to fund the parties' expenses while married. The Court finds that [the former husband] should reimburse the [former wife] half of those loan proceeds, the obligation for which remains outstanding. The Court finds that the [former husband] abandoned the marital home and over $10, 000 was paid by [the former wife] for the remainder of the lease payments on the marital home. The Court finds that the [former husband] should reimburse [the former wife] for half of those lease payments. There was evidence that [the former wife] expended approximately $1, 837 for private-investigator expenses in dealing with [the former husband's] custody battle with the mother of his child. The evidence revealed that after the separation. [The former husband] reneged on an agreement to pay half of an attorney fee ($275) for an attempt to resolve these divorce proceedings in an uncontested manner. Due to the foregoing, the Court finds that the [former wife] is due to be awarded a monetary property settlement from the [former husband]. As such, and taking the entirety of the evidence into consideration, the Court hereby Orders the [former husband] to pay to the [former wife] the sum of $45, 000, as a property settlement, and the Court hereby enters judgment for the [former wife] and against the [former husband] for the sum of $45, 000. This judgment shall be paid by [the former husband] at the rate of no less than $625 per month until paid in full."

         The former husband thereafter filed in the trial court a "Suggestion of the Pendency of Bankruptcy Proceedings Under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code," notifying the trial court that he had, in fact, filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection on February 9, 2018. On April 11, 2018, the trial court entered an order stating:

"The post-judgment proceedings in this case are stayed pending the [former husband]'s Bankruptcy.
"The [the former husband] is ORDERED to list the [the former wife] as a creditor in his Petition and Plan.
"The [former husband] is to notify the Court and the [former wife] if and when the [former husband]/Debtor's case has been dismissed by the Bankruptcy Court for any reason, or the Bankruptcy Stay ...

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