County Family Court (N07-8) Associate Justice Haiganush R.
Plaintiff: Robert S. Parker, Esq.
Defendant: Lauren E. Jones, Esq. Robert S. Thurston, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
Francis X. Flaherty Associate Justice.
case came before the Supreme Court on appeal by the
defendant, Richard Beverley Corbin, III (Bev), from an order
of the Family Court on two post-final-judgment motions filed
by the plaintiff, Anne duPont Corbin. The defendant contends that the trial
justice erred when she determined that the post-employment
compensation that he received from his employer was marital
property and therefore her award of 50 percent of it to Anne
was also error. Alternatively, the defendant maintains that,
should this Court affirm the trial justice's findings
with regard to the post-employment compensation, then in that
case the fee that he paid to an attorney for negotiating that
compensation should be considered marital debt, of which Anne
should pay half. Additionally, the defendant argues that the
trial justice erred when she awarded counsel fees to Anne for
her prosecution of a motion to modify child support, after
she made a specific finding that the defendant did not
adequately notify Anne when he regained employment. For the
reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of
the Family Court.
parties were married on September 27, 1997. Two children and
a decade later, Anne filed for divorce. While divorce
proceedings progressed, the parties pursued settlement
negotiations that resulted in the signing of a property
settlement agreement (PSA) on January 9, 2009. The PSA was
incorporated by reference, but not merged, into the Family
Court final judgment dated April 9, 2009. Thereafter, both
parties filed several post-judgment motions, two of which are
the subject of this appeal. After numerous hearings on the
various motions were conducted over an extended period of
time, the trial justice issued her decision on April 16,
2013, and entered her final order on February 17, 2014. In
her seventy-page decision, among other grants and denials,
the trial justice granted Anne's motion to modify child
support, awarded her counsel fees, and granted her motion to
compel specific performance and/or to adjudge Bev in contempt
regarding paragraph 7(E) of the PSA, awarding Anne 50 percent
of the $138, 937.29 amount Bev
received from his former employer, Wells Fargo, upon his
December 2008, while Bev was bargaining with his employer, he
also was negotiating the terms and conditions of a PSA with
Anne. On December 30, 2008, after Anne's counsel provided
Bev's divorce counsel with a draft PSA, Bev's divorce
counsel responded, proposing various changes. Significantly,
counsel proposed a change to paragraph 7(E) explaining:
"This paragraph was not discussed and is unacceptable;
as you are aware, Kirk v. Kirk has specifically
excluded from division in a divorce the recovery of damages
for future earnings which exceed the duration of the
marriage; any claim which Bev may receive (which is
apparently highly speculative at this point) is in lieu of
future earnings, and will be counted as income for child
support purposes but is not divisible as a marital asset.
This is distinguishable from the economic benefits earned by
Anne at Square Mile, all of which were earned during the
marriage, but are deferred in terms of payment. Therefore,
subparagraph (e) should be excluded."
7(E) of the final PSA, which was executed on January 9, 2009,
"E. Husband's Wells Fargo Claim. The
Husband has a claim against his prior employer, Wells Fargo.
In the event the claim is settled and the Husband receives
any settlement sum as a result of said claim, for any work
performed by him for Wells Fargo prior to the entry of the
Final Judgment of Divorce in this matter, the Husband shall
pay to the Wife forty (40%) percent of the settlement, net
any taxes and litigation expenses."
paragraph 10(A) declared, "[a]t such time as the Husband
obtains employment, he shall notify the Wife and the parties
shall calculate the appropriate child support sum based upon
the parties' then respective incomes and the Child
Support Guidelines and visitation travel expenses."