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DIVORCE 7: Parties agreed and entered a stipulation to arbitrate.

This case arises out of a divorce proceeding commenced in early 2011 that resulted in entry of a judgment of divorce in 2012, followed by extensive disputes over implementation details. The parties eventually stipulated to binding arbitration, which, after further contentiousness before the arbitrator, resulted in an award that plaintiff found acceptable but defendant did not

The parties were married in 1992, and they had three children, the youngest of whom was born in May of 2000. The divorce was contested, but apparently the parties were able to cooperate effectively regarding parenting time, custody, their children’s various issues, and payment of expenses. The trial court ultimately entered a judgment of divorce, along with a uniform child support order and a uniform spousal support order. Both had attachments describing additional obligations. After the parties divorced, they continued to file motions and eventually stipulated to binding arbitration.

This dispute appears to be whether the arbitrator effectively modified the parties’ Uniform Spousal Support Order by awarding plaintiff 19.5% of the profits from the sale of defendant’s stock.

The parties’ post-divorce can best be described as mutually distrustful and antagonistic, both engaging in voluminous motion practice. Relevant to the instant appeal, the parties agreed and entered a stipulation to arbitrate. In relevant part, the stipulation specifically enumerated six motions that were outstanding as of the date of the stipulation, and it further provided that the arbitrator shall arbitrate all of the remaining, post judgment issues in the case. The arbitrator issued his first opinion almost two years after the parties stipulated to arbitrate.

The arbitrator deemed the only reasonable interpretation of the Uniform Spousal Support Order Attachment to be that any subsequent compensation or stock was to be considered income for support purposes, and that the stock purchase necessarily had to be considered compensation, although limited only to gains realized from the stock rather than the entire buy-back price.

Plaintiff moved in the trial court to confirm the ultimate award, and defendant moved to vacate or modify portions of it. It appears that the arbitrator’s opinion did not clearly distinguish between the two categories of stock. For the most part, the trial court did confirm the arbitration award. The trial court also concluded, after holding a hearing, that the Arbitrator exceeded his authority by improperly modifying the Uniform Spousal Support Orders.  The trial court denied the remainder of defendant’s request.

It is important to remember that decrees regarding child support and spousal support (alimony) are not always final. Our family law attorneys at Aldrich Legal Services have helped countless family law clients across southeast Michigan, including in Wayne, Washtenaw and Oakland counties, with changes to child support and spousal support orders.  Our focus is on resolving your dispute as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, while fully safeguarding your rights. 

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