What if you or your spouse took $231,399.00 from a home equity line of credit within months prior to separation and gave a substantial portion of that money to your father or some other relative, without telling the other spouse about the withdrawal?

That’s apparently what happened in a recent San Diego County divorce case.  The judge was not very happy.  He said, “[t]he Court is suspicious of the motivations surrounding such large draws upon virtually every line of credit the couple had in place without consultation with (the wife) in such a short period of time.  While the parties had used equity lines of credit in the past, the fact that the funds were deposited into an account to which (the wife) did not have access is disturbing”. 

After trial, husband was ordered to pay $50,000.00 of his wife’s attorney fees.  The husband appealed, but he got nowhere with the local Court of Appeal.  In a decision filed Thursday, the appeals court voted 3-0 to uphold the trial judge.  The Court of Appeals said “[t]he trial in this matter centered in large part on (husband’s) withdrawal of over $231,000 from the couple’s equity lines of credit without notice to, or permission from, (the wife).  In its statement of decision, the court found these actions ‘suspicious’ and ‘disturbing”.  These findings amply support the court’s imposition of attorney fees under section 271 (of the Family Code)”.  

This was just one judge’s decision.  Other judges might have awarded more fees or less fees.  Further, the case, entitled Marriage of Plunkett, was ordered not to be published in the official reports, meaning it cannot be cited for precedent. 

Still, the case is an interesting example of one judge’s reaction to these set of facts.