Family Law

This summary also appears under Litigation

 

Issues: Sanctions for violation of MCR 2.114 in connection with a motion and objection to child support calculations by the Friend of the Court; Guerrero v. Smith; Whether a claim or defense is "frivolous"; Jerico Constr., Inc. v. Quadrants, Inc.; Failure to present supporting documentary evidence; Spitzley v. Spitzley; Claim that sanctions were improper because there was no intent to harass or delay the opposing party; MCL 600.2591(3)(a)(i)-(ii); Sanctions against defense counsel under the "signature clause" of MCR 2.114(D); Court rule interpretation; McAuley v. General Motors Corp.

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: Sprague v. McMillan

e-Journal Number: 57423

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Cavanagh, Owens, and Stephens

 

Holding that the trial court properly characterized the defendant-father's objections to the Friend of the Court's (FOC) child support calculations "as frivolous because there was no reasonable basis to believe the discrimination allegations," the court affirmed its order imposing sanctions on defendant and defense counsel under MCR 2.114. Defendant objected to a recommended increase in his child support payments. His objection was heard by the referee at a hearing. Two weeks before the hearing, defendant had quit his job due to issues with management. The referee requested a year-to-date paystub from defendant to determine his earning history. While he indicated that he would provide the information to the referee by the end of that week, he did not. The referee imputed income to defendant based on the potential for 40 hours of work at $31.56 per hour. The recommended child support was $1,113 per month. Defendant filed objections to the recommendation. He asserted, among other things, that the FOC "has consistently shown a predisposition toward biased opinions and rulings against" him, and consistently given the plaintiff-mother "preferential treatment." He also asserted that this "highly prejudicial, and biased treatment" appeared to be "either a retaliatory move by the FOC" because he "continued to fight to have his children with him, or in the alternative, establishes" that the FOC "has a distinct habit of treating Hispanic and Native American males in a very disturbingly discriminatory manner." At a motion hearing on his objections, defendant failed to provide documentation about his 2012 income. "By emphasizing that defendant failed to produce evidence in support of his claims, the court implicitly based its decision to order sanctions on the requirement that a reasonable inquiry be made so that the document is 'well grounded in fact.'" The defense argument that the allegations were defendant's sincere beliefs and he should not be sanctioned for expressing them was without merit. "A party may sincerely hold a belief or position in which there is no factual foundation. Yet, the beliefs must be well-grounded in fact for presentation to the court." Defendant offered no testimony to support the allegations that the FOC was biased against him. Even on the substantive issue of his 2012 earning capacity, he "failed to present, or even attempt to secure, the evidence requested months earlier by the referee." The court concluded that "the motion was properly found to be frivolous because defendant did not submit any evidence to support his allegations of bias or discrimination." The trial court also "did not err in assessing sanctions against the attorney because she signed and submitted a frivolous pleading."

 

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