Atkisson v. Atkisson, Ky COA, Marital and Nonmarital Property, Fees, Temporary Maintenance, Garnishment and Judgment Lien

Atkisson v. Atkisson and Atkisson v. Atkisson (consolidated appeals, separate opinions) ___S.W.3d____ (Ky App. 2009) and ___S.W.3d____(Ky App. 2009)

Husband appealed the trial court’s division of marital property, award of temporary maintenance, award of attorney fees, and denial of relief to quash garnishment writs and judgment lien.

Marital residence:     Court awarded husband the residence, but awarded all the equity in the residence to the wife as her non-marital property.  Husband argued that the court should have apportioned the equity as set out in Brandenburg.  COA found that while there was marital equity in the residence, even if the husband was credited for that amount, there was insufficient equity to fully reimburse the wife for her non-marital contribution.  Therefore, there was no marital equity to divide under Brandenburg.

Timeshare:    The court ordered that the timeshare be sold.  Wife was to receive $1,522.88 of the proceeds as her non-marital property.  The remaining proceeds were to be divided equally.  Husband argues that the court erred in not taking into consideration the debt associated with the timeshare, which the court assigned to husband.  COA found that debt is part of the current mortgage on the marital residence.  The court deducted the full amount of both mortgages from the value of the residence to determine the equity in the property.  As a result, the court properly considered the debt. 

Temporary maintenance:      Court ordered husband to pay wife temporary maintenance of $2500 per month.  The order included a provision for health insurance and car insurance.  Husband argued that the award was excessive and that wife intentionally remained unemployed.  COA found the trial court had imputed wife with income in calculating temporary maintenance and found no basis to disturb the trial court’s judgment. 

Attorney fees:    Trial court awarded wife $10,000 in attorney fees.  Husband argued that wife not entitled to any fees due to the amount of assets wife received in the judgment.  COA found no abuse of discretion.  Wife only awarded half of the fees she asked for, husband retains a higher earning capacity, and husband received the residence and most of the income producing property. 

Writs of garnishment and judgment lien:  After the trial court ruled on the parties CR 59.05 motions, wife filed non-wage garnishment against three of husband’s accounts and a judgment lien against his real property.  Husband moved to quash the writs and lien as premature, but trial court denied the motion.  COA found that the garnishment writs and judgment lien were not filed prematurely.  The court’s judgment stays in effect until modified, although enforcement is stayed under CR.62.01.  When compliance dates have passed by the time the court denies a CR 59.05 motion, the trial court should allow a reasonable amount of time for the obligor to comply with the original order.  Here, a reasonable amount of time was given. 

Wife’s garnishment of tax-deferred accounts resulted in 10% penalties for early withdrawal, plus taxes and fees.  COA found that the garnishment writs subjected husband to penalties that far outweighed his failure to comply with the court’s orders.  The penalties and taxes imposed on husband changed the overall allocation of marital assets.  COA remanded this issue to the trial court for a determination of the amount of penalties and taxes incurred and an allocation of this amount between the parties. 

    Digested by Sarah Jost Nielsen, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates