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Serafin v. Serafin

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

July 26, 2016

SANDRA M. SERAFIN, Respondent,
v.
JEFFREY B. SERAFIN, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the County of St. Louis, Missouri 13SL-DR04529 Honorable Kristine Kerr

          OPINION

          James M. Dowd, Judge

         This is an appeal from a pendente lite judgment awarding attorney's fees in a dissolution of marriage proceeding in St. Louis County. Jeffrey B. Serafin ("Husband") appeals the trial court's award of $50, 000 in attorney's fees to his wife Sandra M. Serafin ("Wife"). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         The parties were married in September 1993, and two children were born during the marriage. In July 2013, Wife filed her petition for dissolution of marriage and a motion for a pendente lite order of temporary maintenance, child support, child custody, and attorney's fees.

         In March 2014, the court awarded attorney's fees to both parties to be paid from the court-ordered liquidation of certain marital property. In April 2014, the court entered a consent pendente lite order which governed the parties' legal relationship regarding certain expenses, child support, and property distribuition until further order of the court or until the final disposition of the case.

         In January 2015, five days before the case was set for trial, Wife filed a motion to delay the start of trial and a motion for sanctions against Husband in which Wife sought orders striking Husband's pleadings, excluding Husband from testifying at trial, and an award of attorney's fees as a result of newly-discovered assets that Husband had failed to disclose. The trial court continued the trial and ordered further discovery.

         Over the next approximately six months, Wife filed numerous motions alleging that Husband had failed to comply with the court's discovery and pendente lite orders. In June 2015, the court entered its order on Wife's motion for sanctions in which it found that Husband had failed to disclose:

a. his interest in a trust worth more than $2 million;
b. his interest in an IRA worth approximately $220, 000;
c. his interest in a company which was incorporated in November 2014; and
d. his interest in a $1.3 million house purchased by the aforementioned company where Husband was believed to be living.

         In July 2015, Wife filed a motion seeking an award of $100, 000 for attorney's fees that she claimed she incurred as a result of the litigation generated by Husband's failure to disclose the aforementioned assets. Husband filed a motion to dismiss Wife's motion for attorney's fees arguing that Wife's request was barred by the doctrine of res judicata because the prior April 2014 pendente lite order and the March 2014 attorney's fees award precluded any further attorney's fees award in this case. On August 5, 2015, the court granted Wife's motion and entered its order and judgment awarding Wife $50, 000 in attorney's fees. Husband filed a motion for new trial or, in the alternative, to amend the court's order and judgment. The court denied that motion. This appeal follows.

         Standard ...


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