In re MARRIAGE OF CHRISTINE BRADLEY, Petitioner-Appellee and Cross-Appellant, and TIMOTHY BRADLEY, Respondent-Appellant and Cross-Appellee.
In the dissolution of the marriage of a nurse and a plastic surgeon, the appellate court held, inter alia, that the property distribution was supported by the record and the consideration of the tax consequences of the distribution of the retirement accounts was not an abuse of discretion, and, further, the calculation of the surgeon’s net income for purposes of child support was modified to reflect the subtraction of his obligation for the children’s health insurance; however, the issue of withholding under the Income Withholding for Support Act was remanded for further proceedings.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Nos. 09-D-285, 09-CH-1255; the Hon. Heinz M. Rudolf, Judge, presiding.
Curtis L. Blood, of Collinsville, for appellant.
Robert E. Wells, Jr., of Pessin, Baird & Wells, of Belleville, for appellee.
Panel JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Welch and Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Timothy Bradley, respondent in the above-styled dissolution action, appealed the judgment of dissolution entered by the circuit court of St. Clair County resolving numerous and complicated financial issues between himself and petitioner, Christine Bradley. Christine Bradley cross-appealed on various issues. This action has been acrimonious, complicated, and heatedly contested in virtually all aspects. For the reasons stated below, we affirmed the majority of the findings and holdings by the circuit court of St. Clair County, modified one disposition, and reversed and remanded on one disposition.
¶ 2 Subsequently, Timothy Bradley filed a petition for rehearing arguing the circuit court made a $40, 000 math error, that our order acknowledged the allegation, but did not consider the effect, if any, of said error, and that the error was significant enough to constitute reversible error. Timothy also alleged error by the circuit court in considering the tax consequences of sale of the parties' assets.
¶ 3 We requested a response from Christine as to the first argument, the math error. Christine argued the math error was given only "cursory treatment, " indicating it did not rise to the level of prejudicial error, and that the error did not affect the judgment as a whole.
¶ 4 After examination of the record and consideration of the arguments by the parties, we agree with Christine's position for the reasons stated below in this modified decision and deny Timothy's petition for rehearing.
¶ 5 FACTS
¶ 6 The parties were married in Portland, Oregon, in 1991, and the marriage produced two children, born in 1992 and 1994. Christine is a nurse who stayed at home with the children in their early years and later worked with Timothy in his medical practice. Timothy is a plastic surgeon who is the sole shareholder of Aesthetic and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Institute, S.C., a medical corporation. An entity owned the medical building and an irrevocable trust owned 90% of the entity, with the parties owning the other 10%, the beneficiaries of the trust being Christine and the parties' two daughters. The parties held a promissory note from the entity, LLC, for $210, 000. Timothy's medical corporation paid rent to LLC, with any rent exceeding the mortgage payment funding the irrevocable trust.
¶ 7 Timothy's medical practice ran into problems concerning privileges at the two main hospitals in Belleville, Illinois. He was involved in a dispute with Memorial Hospital, which resulted in Memorial revoking his hospital privileges, and Timothy subsequently filed suit. The other major hospital in Belleville, St. Elizabeth's Hospital, later dropped him from its staff. At the end of 2008, Timothy's certification as a board-certified plastic surgeon lapsed because he no longer had full admitting privileges at a joint commission-accredited hospital. His situation essentially was that he was not board-eligible because he did not have full admitting staff privileges at a qualified hospital. He could not be certified until he obtained such hospital privileges. His application for temporary privileges so he could sit for the board-certification examination was denied. He testified that since April of 2010, he has applied at a dozen hospitals but, due to his lack of board certification, his applications were denied. The record reflects that Timothy's suit against Memorial Hospital is inactive due to his failure to pay the attorneys representing him. As of trial, Timothy owed his attorneys in the lawsuit against Memorial Hospital approximately $22, 000.
¶ 8 Christine was the office manager of Timothy's practice until April of 2009, essentially handling the day-to-day operations of the facility. Timothy took no active part in such management. The responsibilities assumed by Christine included accounts receivable and accounts payable.
¶ 9 In the period from approximately 1999 to 2000 and beyond, Timothy's practice was in general reconstruction and workers' compensation hand surgery, as well as cosmetic surgery. In 2000, the office was accredited as a surgical facility. When he was dropped from the staff of the hospitals, however, the practice declined, and by the summer of 2008, he saw essentially cosmetic patients.
¶ 10 An exhibit submitted by Christine indicated that the lowest salary for a plastic surgeon was approximately $202, 000, with the higher percentile making over $472, 000. The remaining employee of the practice testified that prior to 2007, the office saw a substantial amount of workers' compensation and cosmetic surgery patients. Both categories had declined substantially since 2007, and the employee was trying to collect old accounts receivables.
¶ 11 A major issue between the parties centers on the testimony of Dominic Maduri, who for 12 years prior to trial had been the certified public accountant for the parties and for the medical corporation. In his testimony, Maduri indicated his concerns about the financial condition of the practice starting in 2008, including his perception that the practice could not make its retirement contribution for that year and his view that, given the age of the practice's accounts receivables, along with nonapplication of incoming funds to the accounts receivables, the actual value of said accounts was "nominal." Maduri recounted a substantial decrease of salary payments to both Christine and Timothy in 2009, with Christine receiving $13, 250 and Timothy receiving $37, 073. He further testified that neither party received a paycheck in 2008. He offered the opinion that it would be hard to cover the medical corporation's debt by selling the assets of the practice.
¶ 12 Maduri customarily did not prepare formal financial statements for Timothy's practice, and the statements presented as to income and expenses were not done in the regular course of business. He testified that he spent approximately 20 hours with Timothy, including trial testimony, with a resultant bill of $2, 500. Maduri further testified that he was not supplied original documentation concerning many of the financial aspects of the corporation and "relied on [Timothy] to be honest and forthright." As to salary payments, he testified that Timothy's 2009 W2 showed $113, 624.83 as gross compensation. He also testified as to the estimated value of the equipment of Timothy's practice, but did not give a fair market value, only the history of cost depreciation and tax treatment of that equipment.
¶ 13 Christine, after the separation of the parties, was hired by Barnes-Jewish Hospital, in St. Louis, Missouri, making $31.09 per hour, 30 to 40 hours a week, with a net monthly income of approximately $2, 956.78. As stated before, Christine is a nurse. Barnes had indicated that in order to advance, Christine needed to obtain a master's degree by taking courses at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, which would cost $50, 000, but might be paid by Barnes Hospital as an employee benefit. The parties have two daughters, described as "two talented, extroverted daughters who excel athletically and academically and are involved in extra-curricular activities." Due to the financial pressures the parties sustained, Christine used money from a daughter's account to stave off foreclosure on the parties' residence. The children's funds were also used to supply a vehicle for Christine so she could get back and forth to work. The vehicle she had driven earlier was sold, with the money applied to the practice's debts.
¶ 14 Christine testified that, except for four years when the children were infants and she stayed home by agreement, she has worked either with Timothy (1999 to 2009) or as a nurse elsewhere. She further testified that she had made geographic moves to further Timothy's career and educational opportunities.
¶ 15 As to the parties' residence, other than paying homeowner's insurance for July 2009, Timothy has not assumed payments on the mortgage, homeowner's insurance, real estate taxes, or utilities. Christine has made payments for car insurance, gasoline, clothes, and groceries, and she provided for the children's needs from her own earnings. She has also covered the children's insurance through her employment. Timothy has taken funds from his IRA for his attorney fees. He failed to pay Christine's life insurance and his coverage of her on health insurance, and he canceled the residence's phone service and alarm service, as well as Christine's cell phone. The ...