Crawford v. Crawford, Ky COA, Classification of Property

Crawford v. Crawford

No. 2010-CA-001576-MR

Published: Opinion Affirming in Part, Vacating in Part and Remanding

County: Boyd

Appellant appeals from the order of Boyd Circuit Court confirming the report and supplemental report of the Domestic Relations Commissioner.

The parties were married in 2001 and separated in 2006.  Appellant was sixty-eight years old and retired, and Appellee was sixty-four years old and self-employed.  Appellant moved the circuit court for $1500.00 per month in temporary maintenance, claiming her retirement insurance was $1,272.56 while Appellee received more than $3,000.00 per month from retirement in addition to income from his cabinet shop.  Appellant was granted temporary exclusive possession of the marital residence which she owned at the time of the marriage, and Appellee was ordered to pay the mortgage and utilities.

A bifurcated decree of dissolution was entered June 25, 2008, reserving issues concerning division of property.  After mediation failed, the matter was referred to the DRC for the final hearing which was held on April 22, 2010.  The DRC found that the increase in the mortgage on the marital residence was due to Appellant’s premarital debt and that Appellee had invested his premarital funds to improve the residence and to purchase an adjoining lot on which he constructed a cabinet shop.  The DRC found that Appellant should be responsible for the mortgage and Appellee was awarded the adjoining lot and cabinet shop.

Appellant filed exceptions to the DRC’s report which used the preponderance standard on the property issues when such decisions must be based on clear and convincing evidence.  The circuit court ordered the DRC to provide a supplemental report using the standard of clear and convincing evidence.  When the DRC’s original finding was confirmed in the supplemental report, the circuit court adopted the DRC’s findings and this appeal followed.

After discussing the standard of review set out in Hunter v. Hunter, 127 S.W. 3d, 656 (Ky. App. 2003), the Court of Appeals considered the issues.  Appellant contended that Appellee failed to sufficiently trace the funds used to purchase and build the cabinet shop and the DRC’s and trial court’s reliance on Appellee’s documents was erroneous.  The CA cited Sexton v. Sexton, 125 S.W.3d 258 (Ky.2004) which addressed the classification and division of property and determined that Appellee’s documents failed to adequately trace his contribution of premarital funds to this property.  The trial court’s order adopting the reports of the DRC was vacated and remanded for reclassification of the parties’ property as marital or nonmarital.

Because of the reassessment of the classification of property, the trial court must reconsider the division of marital property and debt as well as Appellant’s request for maintenance and attorney fees.  The trial court’s rejection of Appellant’s claim for reimbursement of medical bills for treatment of injuries sustained during an altercation with Appellee was upheld because she failed to provide documentary proof of her assertion.

Digested by Sandra G. Ragland, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates.