Clark v. Clark, Maintenance, Marital And Nonmarital Property

Clark v. Clark, ___ S. W. 3d ___ (Ky. App. 2007)

DATE RENDERED: 9/21/2007

Ex-Wife appealed from TC’s Order assigning value to a 2002 Ford Taurus, not valuing or dividing certain certificates of deposit (CD’s) and reducing her maintenance. Parties separated after eighteen years of marriage. At the time of their divorce, Ex-Wife was 70 years old and Ex-Husband was 78. Prior to their marriage, Ex-Husband owned a home, land and livestock. Ex-Husband sold his livestock shortly after the marriage and purchased CD’s with the proceeds. During their marriage, the parties lived on Ex-Husband's social security and pension benefits and, once Ex-Wife reached 62, her social security benefits.

While Ex-Wife's dissolution petition was pending, Ex-Husband was ordered to pay $300.00 per month pendente lite maintenance. After trial, TC found a Taurus to be marital property and awarded it to Ex-Wife with a value of $12,000.00. The CD’s were neither assigned nor awarded since Ex-Wife failed to present any evidence that they existed at the time of the parties' divorce. After dividing all marital property, TC reduced Ex-Wife's maintenance award to a monthly sum of $100.00. Ex-Wife filed this appeal. Subsequently, Ex-Wife filed a CR 60.02 Motion for TC to consider new evidence reflecting that Ex-Husband had cashed out CD’s prior to dissolution but after separation. TC denied this motion. CA indicated that any appeal of that Motion must be separate from this appeal.

Ex-Wife first argues the trial court abused its discretion when it assumed facts not in evidence about the value of the 2002 Ford Taurus, and further arguing that Ex-Husband had purchased the car as a gift for her and, thus, it was not marital property within the definition of Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 403.190(2). At trial, Ex-Husband disputed that the Taurus was purchased as a gift to Ex-Wife and, indeed, the car was titled in both parties' names. At trial, neither party testified as to the current value of the Taurus. TC found that Ex-Wife failed to meet her burden of proving that the car was her nonmarital property. The car was awarded to Ex-Wife and assigned the $12,000.00 value listed as its NADA book value in Ex-Husband's mandatory case disclosure. Ex-Wife contends it was incumbent upon Ex-Husband to introduce evidence of the car's value at trial, since he argued it was a marital asset, citing CR 43.01(1), which states, “The party holding the affirmative of an issue must produce the evidence to prove it.” Ex-Wife claimed Ex-Husband’s failure to introduce evidence of its value at trial deprived her of the opportunity to refute this figure. Thus, she argues the burden of refuting the Taurus' supposed value of $12,000.00 never fell to her. She asked CA to assign a value of zero dollars to the car or, in the alternative, to allow her to present evidence contradicting the value assigned by TC. CA disagreed with Ex-Wife’s contentions. CA noted that Ex-Wife had filed her own MCD but failed to assign any value to the Taurus because she contended it was her nonmarital property value as $12,000.00, was filed in the record on June 30, 2004. Ex-Wife had notice that Ex-Husband was characterizing the car as marital property and also of its asserted value. It appears that, instead of introducing her own evidence regarding the car's value, Ex-Wife relied on her ability to persuade TC of the car's nonmarital character. CA found no error in TC’s decision on this issue.

Ex-Wife next argues that TC’s division should have recognized and divided the CD’s between the parties. At trial, Ex-Wife introduced records showing existence of CD’s in 2001. She did not testify to the source of the funds, and offered no proof that the CD’s still existed. Ex-Husband testified that all of the funds used to purchase the CD’s came from the sale of his nonmarital livestock and that the CD’s were exhausted during the marriage.TC found that it was unable to award or assign an asset whose existence was unproven. Ex-Wife asked CA to consider evidence she presented in support of her CR 60.02 motion that Ex-Husband had cashed out the CD’s shortly after the parties separated. However, CA noted that it had issued a previous order that issues related to this Motion must be contained to a timely appeal of that Motion, and Ex-Wife failed to timely appeal that Motion. CA found no error in TC’s order on this issue.

Finally, Ex-Wife argued TC abused its discretion when it reduced her maintenance award, as it set her permanent maintenance so low that she would be dependent upon others for the means to meet her basic needs. At trial, Ex-Wife told TC that she was currently obliged to live with her daughter, and, as a result, TC subtracted her rent and telephone bills from her monthly living expenses. CA held that a TC’s failure to award a sum sufficient to allow a spouse to meet her needs without requiring that she depend on the generosity of family and friends was plainly an abuse of discretion. CA held that TC clearly erred, as its Order did not address the issue of Ex-Wife's current standard of living versus the lifestyle she shared with Ex-Husband during their marriage. TC’s order affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded with instructions to TC to review maintenance award.
As digested by Michelle Eisenmenger Mapes, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates.