Traystman v. Traystman
Financial orders that are a product of mistake, even if they ultimately may be seen as reasonable, cannot be countenanced. The marriage of the plaintiff, Gary Traystman, and the defendant, Lisa Traystman, entered into in 1984 was dissolved in 2011. The earnings and assets of the plaintiff, a member of Traystman & Coric, LLC, who specializes in family law, were disputed. The defendant's expert, John Villano, a certified public accountant, testified to being unable to form an opinion on the firm's value given the plaintiff's objection to disclosing certain financial documentation as protected by the attorney-client privilege. The court noted that the plaintiff's contribution to the firm's revenue was not reflected by his reported compensation and found his earning capacity to be $120,000 per year. The defendant's earning capacity was set at $30,000 annually. The court awarded the defendant $500 per week in periodic alimony but found her in contempt for withdrawing approximately $60,000 from a home equity line of credit in violation of the automatic orders. Her legal fees and costs totaling $66,150 were found fair and reasonable. The court denied the defendant's post-judgment motions for articulation and reconsideration. The court acknowledged computational errors, but, concluded that they did not undermine the reasonableness of its estimate of the plaintiff's earning capacity. The defendant appealed. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment as to the financial orders and contempt order. The court's failure to reconsider its financial orders after being apprised of significant errors was an abuse of discretion. Using corrected figures, the plaintiff's imputed earning capacity would be approximately $146,000 rather than $120,000. Once clear that the basis for the orders was flawed, they could not be salvaged by the court's assertion that the errors were inconsequential. The matter was remanded for reassessment of all financial orders, including the rejection of the defendant's request for attorneys' fees. The court abused its discretion in granting the motion for contempt and using it to fashion financial orders. It was inconsistent for the court to hold the defendant in contempt for withdrawing funds when the amount withdrawn was less than her attorneys' fees, found reasonable. With no pendente lite alimony orders and her minimal income, it was unclear how she could have paid living and legal expenses independently. Discovery into the firm's IOLTA account was not inadequate.