Friday, July 20, 2018
Court of Appeal:
Spousal Support Order of $245,000 per Month Was Sufficient
By a MetNews Staff Writer
FLETCHER JONES JR.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal has rejected an ex-wife’s contention that the order for her former husband to pay $245,000 a month in spousal support and an additional $120,000 a month in child support was insufficient.
The opinion by Justice Eileen C. Moore, filed Wednesday, commends Orange Superior Court Judge James L. Waltz for his thorough statement of decision ordering Fletcher “Ted” Jones Jr. to pay his ex-wife Kimberly Jones and their children over $4.3 million a year, and quotes from that statement extensively.
The ex-husband is an auto magnate, with an estimated wealth of $325 million, who, expanding the operation started by his father, runs several dealerships across the southwest, including Fletcher Jones Motorcars in Newport Beach. Waltz noted that his monthly income is over $1.7 million after taxes.
“It appears that Kimberly misapprehends our role as an appellate court. We are not going to reweigh these numerous factual issues; they were all thoroughly considered by the trial court. Nor are we going to second guess the court’s rulings.”
“This case is atypical in several ways. First, the prospective payor spouse (Ted) agreed to the establishment of support—Ted agreed Kimberly has a need for support. Second, the payor’s ability to pay any amount was never disputed. Ted agreed he is an extraordinarily high earner and admitted he can pay (ability) whatever reasonable support this court establishes.”
The judge did, however, grant the ex-husband’s request that the amount of child support be reduced from the normal guidelines in the Family Code. Those guidelines would have required him to pay nearly $400,000 per month to his ex-wife for their three children.
Moore noted that this was not an abuse of discretion, agreeing with Waltz that such an amount would be an unjust windfall for the ex-wife, and that the ordered amount would enable the children to enjoy the same standard of living they had before the divorce.
Standard of Living
The ex-wife challenged the award of spousal support primarily on the grounds that the marital standard of living (“MSL”) had been miscalculated. Both parties presented evidence at the 23-day trial from forensic accountants to establish that standard.
“Kimberly argues that the spousal support order was inadequate for a multitude of reasons, each of them essentially seeking to challenge the trial court’s factual determination concerning the value of the MSL…The consistent thread that runs through each of these arguments is that court relied on Swan’s analysis (Ted’s expert) rather than Wegis’ analysis (Kimberly’s expert).”
“As with the child support order, we are not going to retry these factual issues, nor are we going to second guess the trial court’s judgement regarding the competing expert testimony.”
The only issues at the trial before Waltz was the amount of support to be paid and attorney fees. A separate litigation was conducted in Nevada, which was designated in the parties’ pre- and postnuptial agreements as the proper venue for challenging those contracts.
The businessman had filed for declaratory relief in that state after his then-wife filed for dissolution of the marriage in California and did not acknowledge the agreements’ validity.
He prevailed in that litigation and was awarded $4 million in attorney fees. At the California trial, the ex-wife requested the payment of more than $9 million in fees for the California litigation as well as fees for the Nevada litigation.
Waltz ordered the man to pay her $400,000 in attorney fees related to the case before him, in addition to the $5.4 million he had already paid. But the judge declined to award any fees stemming from the Nevada litigation.
Moore’s opinion affirms the California fees, as she noted that Waltz had reasonably found that the ex-wife had pursued meritless claims and over-litigated the case and was not entitled to the full $9 million in fees she had incurred.
However, it conditionally reverses the denial of fees for the Nevada case. She explained:
“Having found that the Nevada judgment has no res judicata or collateral estoppel effect, we find the trial court improperly took judicial notice of the underlying factual findings of the Nevada court. Further, we are not certain as to what effect this improperly admitted evidence may have had on the court’s ruling.”
She indicated that on remand, the question is still a matter of Waltz’s discretion.
The case is In re Marriage of Jones, G053394.
Attorneys for Kimberly Jones were Stephen A. Kolodny and Heidi L. Madzar from Kolodny Law Group in Beverly Hills; and Richard A. Derevan and Todd E. Lundell from Snell & Wilmer in Costa Mesa.
Fletcher Jones Jr. was represented by Philip G. Seastrom and Emily Nickles of Seastrom & Tuttle in Orange County; Bruce Evan Cooperman of Wasser Cooperman & Mandles in Los Angeles; and Robert A. Olsen and Marc J. Poster of Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland in Los Angeles.
Father Delivered Commercials
His father was a familiar figure on Los Angeles television for years, starting in the 1950s when he delivered his own commercials from his car lot, at first live—including an occasion when he continued his sales pitch, oblivious to a car behind him having caught fire. He later switched to videotaped spiels.
It was Fletcher Jones Sr.’s use of cuddly dogs in his commercials that prompted rival car dealer Cal Worthington to include various animals in his commercials denominated “my dog, Spot.”
Fletcher Jones boasted of “No Sunday selling” until the need to be competitive caused him to change the policy.
In 1992, the father bought a bankrupt Mercedes-Benz dealership in Newport Beach and commissioned his son to run it. The elder Jones died in 1994 at the age of 74.
Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company