Harry Chandler.
Harry Chandler, Frederick Williamson’s great-grandfather (AP Photo)

Millions of dollars in cash advances that media and real estate magnate Harry Chandler’s great grandson received from his parents during his 20-year marriage shouldn’t be counted in determining spousal support, according to a California appeals court.

A panel of the 2d District Court of Appeal concluded that the money from Frederick Williamson’s parents, which supported his lavish lifestyle, were gifts, not loans, but that its finding didn’t matter because his parents had cut off the money just prior to his divorce from Mary Kate Williamson.

“Simply put: there is no money,” Associate Justice Steven Perren wrote in Thursday’s ruling. “Whether the parental cash stream is characterized as a loan or a gift is irrelevant here. However characterized, it had ceased.”

Frederick Williamson’s attorney, Paul Roberts, said he was pleased with the decision.

“The underlying question really was: If spousal support can be based upon transfers of funds from parents to a child, is the supported spouse really a member of the family and getting a benefit of the money that comes to the heir of the wealth? The court was reluctant to go there,” said Roberts, chief executive officer of Hollister & Brace in Santa Barbara.

Mary Kate Williamson’s attorney, Marjorie Fuller, a solo practitioner in Fullerton, Calif., did not return a call for comment.

The Williamsons married in 1989 and had three children, one of whom was still living at home when they divorced. During their marriage, the Williamsons had a vacation home at Mammoth Mountain and access to a beachfront home near Santa Barbara, where they lived just before their divorce. They owned several luxury cars and traveled by private jet.

Between 1990 and 2005, Frederick Williamson worked at the Los Angeles Times. His great grandfather, Harry Chandler, had been the second publisher of the newspaper.

But for the most part, Frederick Williamson depended on trust fund income and his parents, whose $2.16 million in cash advances included $1.25 million toward a “fixer” home in Pasadena with tennis courts, a pool, gym, spa and room service.

When the couple separated in 2009, their monthly expenses averaged $45,000, but neither was employed. By 2010, Frederick Williamson got a job in the classified advertising department of the Santa Barbara News-Press, making $60,000 in annual salary and commissions. He also received $13,000 each year from his family’s trust and $26,000 from his parents.

Based on that total $99,000 in annual income, Santa Barbara County, Calif., Superior Court Judge James Brown, now retired, ordered Frederick Williamson to pay his ex-wife $2,235 in spousal and child support each month. Mary Kate Williamson, who doesn’t work, had sought $28,782 in monthly spousal support.

“The wife was really overreaching and trying to get into the wealth of the parents and great grandparents,” said Roberts, who added that his client has since been laid off from the Santa Barbara newspaper and is “actively looking for work.”

Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.