Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Does divorce court frown on husband who admitted to having an affair with young woman who was raised as his daughter? Not in Jefferson County, Alabama

Bill Upton
What should happen in divorce court to a husband who admitted to an extramarital affair with a mentally disabled young woman he and his wife had raised as their daughter--and the affair was a central event in breaking up his marriage of more than 30 years? Most citizens probably would say, and the law generally holds, that the husband should pay dearly for marital misconduct that might reasonably be described as grotesque.

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
Pate's order is written in a confusing fashion regarding property division, but Linda Upton apparently has received virtually nothing from the business enterprises built during their marriage. Here are the business-related items that Pate awarded exclusively to Bill 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)


Anonymous said...

Bill Upton must be losing his mind. Don't see how anyone of sane mind does this, and then tries to screw over his wife in divorce court.

Anonymous said...

Glad you are still following this story. A classic example of money buying justice.

Anonymous said...

Holy moley! What attorneys represented Upton? How about his wife? Are their ties to the judge? Is that what's "more to come"?

Now this is the stuff that I so enjoy this blog for...the big (our love gov) and "little" (like this one) stories like this one that would not have seen the light of day in MSM.

legalschnauzer said...

MaryLee Abele was the primary attorney for Linda Upton. Abele also was the primary lawyer for Sherry Rollins, who got royally cheated in a Shelby County divorce case. Makes me wonder if Ms. Abele really represents the best interests of her clients.

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to wonder if there is any kind of justice left in my home state of Alabama . . . what is going on? I'm horrified.

Anonymous said...

Gincie Walker comes from a very screwed up family. Her father once was a physician in Bham area and a big church guy, but he now is in federal prison on child-abuse charges. I hope people understand that Gincie came from a tough upbringing.

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, that's my understanding, @2:20, and I plan to report on that before too long.

Anonymous said...

It happened to my daughter in Alabama with Judge Pate as her Judge and we are currently appealing the divorce - It is an utter disgrace

Anonymous said...

WTF,This a common case of a good lawyer knows the law and a better lawyer knows the judge. State law dictates the wife gets the residence,she must have had a really bad lawyer.No different than buying your Full Colonel in Alabama National Guard which is the Alabama standard.Since 1865

legalschnauzer said...


I've heard the old line about the importance of a lawyer who knows the judge, not the law--and even I get a chuckle out of it. But it's important to remember that our system does not--and certainly is not supposed to--run on the basis of an old joke.

We have something called the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees Mrs. Upton "equal protection of the law." In other words, it guarantees the law will be applied to her the way it is to Mr. Upton and other parties. Those who fail to abide by the equal protection and due process clauses are violating the law--the very principles upon which this country is founded.

While I appreciate your attempt at humor, I'm sure you realize that joke is not supposed to be one of the guiding principles in American jurisprudence. Sadly, our system all too often is a joke, and exposing such chicanery is the No. 1 goal behind this blog.

"Private Judge" Gary Pate took an oath to uphold the law and the U.S. and Alabama constitutions. At that, he has failed miserably. Mostly, he's upheld the interests of his former law partner, George Fernambucq, and Mr. Fernambucq's wealthy client.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Making Equal Protection under the Law an amendment to the Constitution was Abraham Lincoln's dream. He died for it & Andrew Johnson was impeached for it. Actually using the law in the real world was the dream of John & Bobby Kennedy. They also died for it along with Martin Luther King. Even Republicans in the Congress of the 1860s refused to accept the notion that the Negro or a White Woman or a Queer White Male was their equal in the workplace or that the Negro should be allowed to eat in the same restaurant, but they did finally
acknowledge that all men should be treated equally in the courtroom & this was a huge step forward. It was unprecedented that a Black Man would no longer be viewed as property or a free, yet ignorant former slave & would have the right to sue & defend suits at law or God forbid sit on a jury in judgment of a White Man or worse yet in judgment of a fellow Negro who had raped a White Woman or who had stolen from a White Man. This was an earth shattering concept down in Alabama where Black Men were not worth as much as a decent hunting dog & Indians were worth less than the dead fowl the dogs retrieved after their master had shot them dead. For the first time in American History, the White Man would not be supreme in something and he could not stand the thought of it; enter the Ku Klux Klan.

Robby Scott Hill said...

As my cousin Michael Hill of the League of the South would be quick to point out, those who are failing to abide by the equal protection & due process clauses are citizens of sovereign states which were not represented in Congress at the time the 14th Amendment was voted on. The former Confederate States ratified the 14th Amendment only because Blacks & Yankee Sympathizers represented the people in Congress & the state legislatures while their preferred Confederate Veterans & Officials were under a disability to serve. Once Dixie Mafia restores the Confederate Government, there will be no 14th Amendment.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for your insights on the 14th Amendment, Rob. Are there some good books out there on this subject? I should do a post about it, including your ideas stated here. I think I wrote a post one time saying that the current South is run by a "New Confederacy," that their goal (and they tend to be white, male, conservatives) is to make up their own law as they go along. I've seen that kind of behavior over and over again, in both state and federal courts. They have zero respect for the U.S. Constitution, and that's because (I think) their loyalty is to the New Confederacy. Not only do they hate the 14th Amendment, but it's like they refuse to acknowledge that it exists.

Notice how Roy Moore's court treated the recent VictoryLand ruling, where the trial judge ruled in the casino's favor on equal protection grounds. You can almost hear Roy & the Gang laughing (or seething) as they overturned that opinion.

Anonymous said...

"You can almost hear Roy & the Gang laughing (or seething) as they overturned that opinion."

Is that the one headed for SCOTUS?


legalschnauzer said...

Are you talking about the VictoryLand case, @3:29. Milton McGregor was quoted (in the Montgomery Advertiser, I think) as saying he would consider taking the case to SCOTUS. But I don't think that is a sure thing. In fact, I generally support VictoryLand's position and have shown how the AL Sup. Ct. ruling was unlawful, but seeking certiorari from SCOTUS would be a waste of time. There is pretty much zero chance that SCOTUS would hear the case, and it would be a waste of time and money for McGregor.