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Should the Recession Factor in to Divorce Settlement Payments?

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Lester Leggette thinks so.

The Lee County man has appealed a judge’s decision originating from his divorce all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court, contending that his wife should not receive the initial value of his three retirement accounts in an environment of financial meltdown that has caused those accounts—originally worth an estimated $759,000—to greatly reduce their worth today.

The couple decided to file for divorce in 2004, but Leggette contends that the value of his retirement funds has been so impacted by the national recession that he should not still remain accountable for the initial value, according to court documents and reported by J.D. Sumner of the Albany Herald.

Leggette also seeks to have a trial judge’s ruling awarding $60,000 in attorney's fees to his ex-wife be overturned.

Susan Leggette and her divorce attorneys contend that she is entitled to the worth of the funds at the time of the initial divorce decree. The Georgia Supreme court is scheduled to hear the case next week.

According to court documents, a jury awarded a divorce to the couple in December of 2004. The final judgment did not arrive until 2006.

At that time, a judge ordered Lester Leggette to provide Susan Leggette to give his ex-wife 40% of the value of three retirement accounts, funds for their children's education and $28,000 in legal expenses.

Leggette first appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court in October 2008. The court upheld the ruling of the trial court with one exception. It ruled that any award of attorney's fees needed to be justified in writing by the court.

Earlier in 2009, the trial court held a hearing and produced a four-page order that detailed the basis for the attorney’s fees awarded to Susan Leggette and increasing the amount to $60,000 following the intervening legal expenses. The court also found Lester Leggette in contempt for not paying appropriate amounts toward his children's education fund and charged him interest for the ongoing delay.

According to court officials, "Susan Leggette argues the state Supreme Court should uphold the trial court's rulings, which it did before with the exception of the attorney fees. He may have chosen to appeal—twice—but losing his appeal does not change the date she legally owned the funds and she shouldn't have to suffer any losses that occurred while he appealed."

That decision could have Lester Leggette feeling even more of a pinch than that brought on by the recession alone.

By the same token, Susan Leggette may be one of very few Americans who see their portfolio hold steady throughout an economic crisis.

Source: Albany Herald


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