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In re Marriage of Shannon-Harr

Supreme Court of Montana

July 5, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: JOAN SHANNON-HARR, Petitioner and Appellee, and DARYL HARR, Respondent and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: June 14, 2017

         APPEAL FROM District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District, In and For the County of Flathead, Cause No. DR 13-285(D) Honorable David M. Ortley, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Brian Muldoon, Law Office of Brian Muldoon, P.C., Whitefish, Montana.

          For Appellee: Joan Shannon-Harr, Self-Represented, Salinas, California.

          OPINION

          BETH BAKER JUSTICE.

         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 Daryl Harr appeals the Eleventh Judicial District Court's order dissolving his marriage to Joan Shannon. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

         ¶3 Daryl and Joan married in 2008 in California and separated about five years later. At the time of the parties' marriage, Daryl was a successful financial advisor with a net worth of over $3.7 million. Joan was a registered nurse earning $75, 000 a year. Daryl had purchased a tract of land near Trego, Montana, and began constructing a home on the property just prior to the parties' marriage. Daryl and Joan moved to the Trego residence in 2010. After moving to Montana, Daryl largely retired and Joan's employer eliminated her telecommuting nursing position.

         ¶4 Apart from the Trego property, Daryl's primary assets were his home in Sacramento, California, and a promissory note from the sale of his business, worth over $650, 000 at the time of trial. The 2008 recession seriously impacted Daryl's financial situation. Daryl sustained a loss on the sale of his California home, and his monthly disbursement on the promissory note reduced from $23, 000 to just over $15, 000 per month. At the time of trial, Daryl's first wife was garnishing fifty percent of the monthly promissory note payment for back alimony payments. Daryl and Joan accumulated significant credit card debt and took out a second mortgage on the Trego property after Daryl took a loss on the sale of his California home. Daryl also accrued a substantial tax debt for failing to pay his income taxes.

         ¶5 In September 2013, the District Court ordered Daryl to pay Joan about $1, 600 a month in temporary maintenance. The maintenance order required also that Daryl continue to make mortgage payments and all insurance and tax obligations on the Trego property. Daryl moved to modify the temporary maintenance order in March 2014, asserting that he did not have enough income to pay support to Joan. Joan filed a counter-motion to hold Daryl in contempt for his failure to pay the temporary support. The District Court denied Daryl's motion and granted Joan's motion at the close of the June 2014 trial. Daryl again moved to modify the temporary maintenance order in March 2015.

         ¶6 Twenty-eight months after trial, the District Court issued its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and decree of dissolution. The court determined that the Trego home should be sold and the equity divided equally between the parties after deductions for the outstanding mortgages. The court ordered Daryl to pay Joan a cash equalization payment of over $125, 000. The majority of the cash equalization payment represented the court's calculation of Joan's share of the Trego home's estimated value-which the court calculated as of the time of trial. In its calculation of net worth, the court did not list any values for the assets and debts that it concluded were solely that of one party and not part of the marital estate. The court's final decree also granted Daryl's second motion to modify temporary support because Joan had obtained appropriate employment and did not show that she could not be self-supporting. The court terminated Daryl's temporary support obligation effective March 1, 2015. Daryl appeals from the final decree.

         ¶7 Montana statute vests a district court with broad discretion to apportion a marital estate in a manner equitable to each party under the circumstances. In re Marriage of Funk, 2012 MT 14, ¶ 6, 363 Mont. 352, 270 P.3d 39. We review a district court's division of marital property to determine whether the court's findings of fact are clearly erroneous and the conclusions of law correct. Funk, ¶ 6. Absent clearly erroneous findings, we will affirm a district court's division of property and award of maintenance unless we identify an abuse of discretion. Funk, ¶ 6.

         ¶8 In arguing that the District Court abused its discretion in its dissolution decree, Daryl claims that Joan expressly disclaimed any interest in the Trego residence and land during trial. He contends that the court abused its discretion in awarding Joan temporary maintenance because she was able to support herself. Daryl claims that the District Court erred in its valuation of assets. The court's error in valuing the marital estate, Daryl asserts, was compounded by the twenty-eight-month delay between the trial and the decree.

         ¶9 We are unpersuaded by Daryl's contention that Joan disclaimed any interest in the Trego residence and land during trial. Daryl emphasizes Joan's testimony that she was "not asking for his house." Joan did not expressly waive her right to a share of the equity in the home. In fact, Joan argued extensively in her post-trial briefing that the Trego home was a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. Daryl has failed to demonstrate that the ...


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