Law News

Ex-Husband Gets $3M, Kids in Divorce Verdict

by Richmond Eustis
Fulton County Daily Report
March 15, 2000
Law Net News

When Richard Grimm and Gail Raper divorced, the jury awarded him the house, the kids -- and nearly $3 million.

Grimm's lawyer, Jeffrey B. Bogart of Bogart & Bogart in Atlanta, says the award is unusual for two reasons: its size and that his wife -- chief executive officer of Morris & Raper Realtors of Atlanta -- will have to pay her ex-husband.

Bogart says that when a couple divorces, men generally end up paying alimony. Though his client owns a business, it was clear who was supporting the family, Bogart says.

"I told the jurors from the beginning that this is a gender-reversal case," he says.

According to court records, Raper is the sole shareholder of the real estate firm. She had total assets of about $6 million, says Bogart, including a 100-foot-plus houseboat dubbed the "Mis-Chief III."

Grimm owns Cartunes Inc., a car stereo and audio shop in Roswell. But over the course of their 20-year marriage, Raper's business fortunes soared while Grimm's soured and Cartunes was losing money, Bogart says.

As Raper's business took off, Grimm and the rest of the family came to rely more heavily on her income, Bogart says, and by the marriage's end, Raper was bailing out Grimm's business with loans and credit payments. Raper filed for divorce, Bogart says. Court documents show that Raper claimed the marriage was "irretrievably broken."

"She paid the mortgage; she paid all the utility bills. She was basically supporting the family," Bogart says. Grimm "had a business, but his primary concern was the children."

Raper's lawyer, Kenneth H. Schatten of Kresses, Benda, Lenner & Schatten, did not return a phone for comment on this story.

After a week-long trial, jurors decided Raper will continue to provide for her family at least into the next decade. In their March 6 verdict, jurors gave Grimm the family home and a cash payment of $700,000. Jurors then tacked on a lump-sum alimony payment of $219,000 plus $160,000 a year for 10 years. Raper v. Grimm No. CV-00087 (Fult. Super. March 6, 2000).

Since the parties had agreed that Grimm would continue as the primary custodian for the couple's two children, the jury also awarded Grimm child support payments of $5,000 a month. The total award, Bogart says, amounts to a little more than $3 million.

Bogart says the parties will return to court Tuesday for a second hearing on attorney fees. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland W. Barnes awarded Bogart $40,000 in legal fees but Bogart is asking for another $90,000.

Veteran Atlanta divorce lawyer John C. Mayoue, of Warner, Mayoue & Bates says lump-sum alimony payments such as this one allows jurors to divide property without destroying the assets. In this case, Raper's company remains intact but Grimm gets a large sum of money.

"Lump-sum alimony, to me, is the equalizer," Mayoue says. "It's the jury's method of equalizing property division."

Bogart says he was a little worried as the jury foreman read through the division of property, and his client ended up with only the house and a comparatively small cash payment.

"After they went through the property, my heart fell to the ground," he says.

The alimony news came at the very end of the six-page verdict form, Bogart says. It erased his own anxiety and amazed Grimm, Bogart says.

"He was in, and remains, in a state of shock" at the size of the verdict, he says.

Mayoue says such alimony payments often depend on the couple's finances. Rather than relying on gender, the payments rely on economic concerns, he says, adding, "It's really not applied at all from a gender perspective."

To Bogart, the decision indicates a departure from similar divorce cases.

"I don't know of any case where a fellow has gotten such a significant amount," he says.

Copyright 2000 NLP IP Company -- American Lawyer Media.