Supreme Court At-a-Glance Contributor Sam Harkinson, Previously employed as an Assistant County Attorney, and as an insurance adjuster, now as an associate at Hoefle, Phoenix, Gormley & Roberts.

No.  2019-0734,

March 24, 2021

Affirmed.

 

  • Whether the trial court erred in including obligor’s vested restricted stock options as income for purposes of a child support calculation, and whether the Court exceeded its jurisdiction to apply such a determination retroactively.

 

The parties were divorced in 2015.  At the time of the divorce, a Final Order awarded Mr. Michael Greenberg (the “Obligor”) his employee restricted stock options free and clear of any interest of Ms. Anne Greenberg (the “Obligee”). However, the Uniform Support Order applied the child-support percentage on any bonus that he may receive.  As it is relevant for this case, the Obligor’s employer issued him restricted stock options that vested on a regular basis.  At the time of the divorce, the Obligor had not yet cashed-in any of his options.  However, in the time since the Final Order, the Obligor had cashed in a number of these options, for a total amount in excess of $320,000.00.

In 2019, the Obligee moved to revaluate child-support based on a change in circumstance or a three (3) year review.  At that time, the Obligee became aware of the monies that the Obligor had been receiving as a result of his cashing-in on the vested stock interests.  The trial court determined that the options are income for purposes of child-support, and also determined that the Obligor had been obligated since the time of the original Uniform Support Order to make payments based on the value of the options.

In rejecting the Obligor’s arguments on appeal, the Court reviewed the definition of income for purposes of child-support and determined that the options, regardless of whether they are cashed-in, would be considered income for purposes of child-support.  The Court also rejected the Obligor’s argument that the trial court had exceeded the scope of the Obligee’s petition.  The Court found that the Obligee’s petition had been constructively amended, and therefore affirmed the trial court’s decision.

 

Brennan, Lenehan, Iacopino & Hickey, William J. Quinn on the brief and orally for the Petitioner.  Smith-Weiss Shepard & Spony, P.C., Robert M. Shepard on the brief and orally for the Respondent.