'One-sided' divorce decree stuns woman Teller loses house to lumber yard owner

November 03, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

When Kathleen M. Schaeffer and her new husband moved into their custom-built Sullivan Road home about seven years ago, she thought she was "the luckiest woman in the world."

Now, nearly a month after Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. granted her husband a divorce and ordered her to pay him $315 a month in child support, she is shattered, stunned and angry.

Her former husband is Lloyd N. Schaeffer, of the Schaeffer Lumber family.

She is a bank teller.

"All I know is that I am shocked, I know that I am the loser," the 40-year-old Mrs. Schaeffer said in an interview in the lavishly decorated home that she and her former husband built. "It's sad, very sad."

By any measure, she certainly is the loser. She lost the divorce case, even though the judge didn't specify the reasons.

She now owes her former husband $10,764 in compensation for his portion of the marital estate. He was ordered to pay her $800 a month in temporary alimony.

She lost custody of the couple's adopted 5-year-old son, which resulted in the child-support decree.

The $300,000 Sullivan Road house and the nearly $47,000 worth of furniture inside it must be sold within three years. Meanwhile, Mrs. Schaeffer and one of her three daughters from a previous marriage who still lives with her, have been ordered to move out.

For the time being, the couple's adopted son is living primarily with his mother at the Sullivan Road home, while Mr. Schaeffer lives in his parents' home several houses away.

"I'm outraged, my friends are outraged," Mrs. Schaeffer said. "I just feel very desperate, I feel disbelief. There are no reasons for these harsh outcomes."

The marriage was in trouble almost from the start, according to a letter Mr. Schaeffer wrote to his parents shortly before the couple broke up.

"Both of you really do not know the loving, giving and caring person that Kathy is," he wrote in the letter, which is part of the court file. "You do not know her because instead of accepting her and her girls as they are and treating them with kindness and respect . . . Kathy was instantly met with insinuations, suspicions, unkind comments and deeds."

Mrs. Schaeffer concurred with the tone of the letter and, to this day, she says things could have been different if the couple hadn't lived so close to his parents.

"I didn't understand the family dynamics at first," she said. "I was just happy to meet a very nice gentleman who pursued me and asked me to marry him. I thought I was the luckiest woman in the world."

She's angry now about the breakup of her marriage and about Judge Beck's ruling in the divorce. In explaining her anger, Mrs. Schaeffer points to the disparity between her income and her former husband's.

Since she began work as a teller at Frederick County National Bank in Westminster in June, Mrs. Schaeffer has earned $3,400. Herannual income, according to a copy of a recent paycheck stub, will amount to $10,920.

By comparison, the couple's income for the seven years of their marriage ranged from $45,000 to $208,000 a year, according to income tax returns in the case file. Mrs. Schaeffer was not employed during most of the marriage.

Mr. Schaeffer is a part-owner of Schaeffer Lumber Co., a Westminster company that posts sales of more than $1 million a year. He also has a stock portfolio -- worth an estimated $51,000 -- and one-third ownership of his parents' $195,000 Sullivan Road home.

In addition to the couple's marital home, they own a time-share in a Florida condominium worth more than $8,000 and a $50,000 property in Hanover, Pa.

Those assets are to be sold, with the proceeds split between the parties.

In other words, says Mrs. Schaeffer, she has been "thrown out in the street" by Judge Beck's order.

"When I filed for divorce, I never wanted this to happen," she said. "This is the worst possible outcome."

Hoping to change that outcome, Elwood E. Swam of Hampstead -- Mrs. Schaeffer's attorney -- filed a motion to amend the order.

Among other things, Mr. Swam asked Judge Beck to grant divorce to Mrs. Schaeffer, to grant her custody of their adopted son, to allow her to live in the marital home and to order Mr. Schaeffer to pay a greater amount of alimony for an indefinite period.

Mr. Swam declined to comment.

Judge Beck will hear arguments on the motions Dec. 16.

And neither Mr. Schaeffer nor his attorneys would comment for this article.

But, according to documents in the nearly 3-inch-thick court file, the judge's decision exceeded even their expectations.

"Since [Mrs. Schaeffer] is awarded liberal visitation rights, the court finds that it would be in the best interests of the child and the parties that each parent be charged generally with the support of the child," wrote E. David Silverberg, Mr. Schaeffer's attorney, in a proposed judgment of divorce submitted to Judge Beck in September.

"Therefore, no dollar amount of child support is awarded to [Mr. Schaeffer]," the proposed order said.

Mr. Silverberg also proposed that his client should pay up to $8,000 of Mrs. Schaeffer's legal bills.

L Judge Beck ordered both parties to pay their own legal fees.

Mrs. Schaeffer owes Mr. Swam more than $16,000, which she is paying at the rate of $50 a month.

HTC "I want to allow my trust in the judicial system to help me wait this one out," she said. "I hope."

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