An 'affair' to remember for defendant

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By Marie E. Matyjaszek

A new published case has come out from the Michigan Court of Appeals – Rodene Cassidy v. Robert Cassidy Jr., which was decided January 10, 2017 (Michigan Court of Appeals Docket Nos. 328004; 328024 and 333319). It details a salacious extramarital affair, which ends up costing the ex-husband big bucks. Heck, even his mistress gets the blame for part of the debt.

The story begins with the marriage of Rodene and Robert in 1997. Alas, the marriage was not meant to be, as Robert started having an affair with Mary Hansen, with the two lovebirds conveniently working together. Rodene found out about Robert’s extracurricular activities in 2012 and promptly filed for divorce.

Turns out Robert was a very generous paramour, having given Hansen anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000 throughout the years to buy and remodel her house.  Naturally, once this came to light, Rodene was none too pleased, given that the money was marital in nature. Throughout the life of the case, and after 15 (yes, 15) long days at trial, a Genesee County judge determined that Robert and Mary “engaged in concerted activity and conspired to defraud [Rodene] of her rightful share in the marital estate.”  As a result of this finding, Mary’s home was subject to a constructive trust, Robert was responsible for the entirety of the tax liability (shockingly, there was “significant under-reporting of income”), spousal support was awarded to Rodene, and, what really appeared to get to Robett – an award of just over $150,000 in attorney fees that he had to pay for his now ex-wife’s attorney.

At this point, no one should be surprised to learn that Robert’s moral turpitude extended to his ability to follow court orders. He failed to pay his portion of the property settlement, spousal support, and attorney fees. It’s interesting to note that Mary was liable for part of the property settlement as well as she was added as a third party to the divorce case. By time the hearing rolled around to address his contempt, Robert had paid the spousal support, but not the rest.

As you would imagine, the court was pretty irritated with Robert by this point. Throughout the proceedings, he reportedly lied and misled the court and Rodene, which significantly drove up the costs of litigation. The lower court had warned Robert on multiple occasions that he could be jailed for his failure to follow orders, and the judge had finally had it — she sentenced him to 10 days in jail for non-payment of attorney fees. If he paid the money owed before the 10 days in jail was up, he wouldn’t have to keep going.

Robert and Mary both appealed the rulings, but the focus of this article is Robert landing in jail over non-payment of his ex-wife’s attorney fees. Robert never contested that he was in contempt of court, but rather that his due process rights were violated, saying “he had no prior notice,” and that the “trial court’s written order for contempt contained harsher terms [than] what the trial court had verbally indicated at the hearing.”

Fortunately for Rodene, the lower court meticulously analyzed the case and explained exactly why it ruled in her favor. During the court proceedings, Robert was warned several times of the possible sanctions for contempt, including jail time, and he stated that he understood the possible consequences. In short, the Court of Appeals wasn’t buying what Bob was selling, affirming the trial court’s decision, denying his bid for the ever-elusive “get out of jail free” card.

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Marie Matyjaszek is an attorney referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court; however, the views expressed in this column are her own. Her blog site is: http://legalbling.blogspot.com. She can be reached by e-mailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.)
 

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