But that's not how it works when the husband is Alabama steel executive Bill Upton, described in court documents as a "multimillionaire." The Final Judgment of Divorce in Upton v. Upton, dated December 4, 2012, suggests private judge J. Gary Pate was more impressed with Bill Upton's status as president of Pelham-based Vulcan Steel Products than he was with any issues related to facts, law, or general fairness. (The Final Judgment of Divorce can be read at the end of this post.)
To a member of the middle class, it might appear that Linda Upton got a pretty good deal in the divorce. But considering that Bill Upton reportedly has a net worth in the $40 million to $60 million range--and that estimate might be low--one can see that Linda Upton got a raw deal of epic proportions.
Linda Upton helped get the business off the ground, working in the plant during the early years, and her parents helped manage the company for a number of years. She and her husband adopted or foster parented numerous special-needs children over the years, with Linda providing most of the hands-on care.
We've seen nothing in the court record that indicates Linda Upton was found to be an unfit mother, but Judge Pate awarded physical custody of the children to Bill Upton. Many of the children, according to court records, considered Gincie Walker, Bill Upton's mistress, to be their sister. How confusing must that have been to the younger children? One can only imagine. But here is how Judge Pate ruled on the custody issue in his final order:
3. (a) The Husband and Wife shall be awarded joint legal custody of the minor children of the parties, David Upton, born September 4, 1994; Brandon Upton, born April 4, 1997; and Polly Upton, born May 11, 2007 ("the children"). The Husband shall be awarded sole physical custody of the children.Is there anything in the record that supports an award of sole physical custody to Bill Upton? We have not found a single word to support that.
Bill Upton has since married Gincie Walker, who has been diagnosed with multiple-personality disorder. That means the younger children are in the control of a father who had little to do with their upbringing and a mother/sister who has a severe mental disorder.
How did Judge Pate come to this custody decision? The order provides no clues.
Linda Upton receives $4,350 a month in periodic alimony, but she received zero in gross alimony. She did not even receive the marital residence. From Pate's order:
11. (a) The parties jointly own a residence at 2870 Shook Hill Road, Birmingham, Alabama. It shall be placed on the market and sold. The Wife shall have exclusive possession pending sale unless she moves. . . .
Linda Upton wound up staying at the home, but only after she had paid Bill Upton for his share of the property. And this was a husband who admitted to conducting an extramarital affair, apparently under the marital roof.
|Gincie Walker Upton|
12. The Husband shall receive sole title to and ownership of the following, with Wife being divested of any interest therein:
a. First Commercial Bank checking account
b. Ohio National Life Insurance
c. National Copper
d. Vulcan Threaded Products
e. Peltown Realty (This company, by the way, appears to have a pretty cozy relationship with the City of Pelham.)
f. Wings LLC
g. Windwood Group
h. Windwood Farm
i. Vulcan Threaded Products--Husband's note receivable
j. Vulcan 401k Profit Sharing
k. His IRA
Item D particularly jumps out. Vulcan Threaded Products was the name of what is now Vulcan Steel Products, the family's primary business. It appears Linda Upton received little or no share in the company's proceeds--and the law is clear that she was entitled to an equitable share.
How can a divorce, which was precipitated by the husband's egregious marital misconduct, result in such a lopsided decree? It would be hard to fathom in a world where the law and facts mattered. But in postmodern Alabama, and I suspect in many other states, it happens quite often.
(To be continued)