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In re Marriage of Rorabaugh

Supreme Court of Montana

January 8, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: JASON L. RORABAUGH, Petitioner and Appellee,
v.
NIKKI L. ZELENKA, f/k/a RORABAUGH, Respondent and Appellant.

          ORDER

         On November 27, 2018, we issued an opinion in the above-entitled action, affirming an order from the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, adopting the Standing Master's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a final decree of dissolution (Final Decree) of the marriage between Nikki Zelenka (Nikki), formerly known as Nikki Rorabaugh, and Jason Rorabaugh (Jason). Rorabaugh v. Zelenka, No. DA 18-0013, 2018 MT 286N, 2018 Mont. LEXIS 408. Nikki timely filed a petition for rehearing on December 11, 2018. Jason filed his response on December 21, 2018.

         M. R. App. P. 20(1)(a)(i) provides that a petition for rehearing may be considered when the Court "overlooked some fact material to the decision."

         Nikki argues the Court's decision contains two factual errors. First, Nikki appears to argue that the following statement from the Opinion is erroneous: "[The Standing Master] also encouraged the parties to sell the marital home and take other measures to reduce their monthly expenses . . . ." Rorabaugh, ¶ 5. The August 2012 hearing transcript demonstrates the Standing Master and the parties discussed reducing expenses and selling the marital home. The statement is not erroneous.

         Second, the Opinion states that "In October 2017, after Nikki objected to the Standing Master's Final Decree, the District Court held a hearing to allow Nikki to present additional evidence supporting her objections. Nikki raised the same concerns to the District Court that she had raised to the Standing Master and provided no additional evidence supporting her requests for retroactive child support, maintenance, attorney fees, and health insurance coverage." Rorabaugh, ¶ 14. Nikki and Jason both agree the District Court did not allow either party to present additional evidence at the October 2017 hearing. Instead, the District Court heard oral argument with respect to Nikki's objections based on the evidence that had been available to the Standing Master when she issued the Final Decree.

         Because this statement appears to be in error, we agree that it is appropriate to correct it-however, it is immaterial to our resolution of the case. As the Opinion states, although many years passed between the parties' December 2013 trial and the June 2017 Final Decree, the Standing Master allowed the parties to submit additional financial information in May 2015, and Nikki submitted even more supplemental information in her December 2015 pro se notice of appearance. Rorabaugh, ¶¶ 13, 18. The Standing Master considered both the financial information and Nikki's supplemental information when issuing the Final Decree. Moreover, the Final Decree divided the parties' assets according to their present values in October 2017, evenly divided Nikki's student loan debt, generally held each party responsible for their own debts, and held that any individual party's debt secured by a lien against the parties' real property should be satisfied from their portion of their real property equity. Rorabaugh, ¶ 18.

         Having fully considered the parties' positions, we conclude that rehearing is not warranted under the standards of M. R. App. 20(1)(a), but that two minor changes must be made to the Court's Opinion. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Paragraphs 14 and 18 of the Opinion in this matter are AMENDED as follows:

(1) Paragraph 14:
In October 2017, after Nikki objected to the Standing Master's Final Decree, the District Court held a hearing to allow Nikki to present oral argument additional evidence supporting her objections. Nikki raised the same concerns to the District Court that she had raised to the Standing Master and provided no additional reasoning evidence supporting her requests for retroactive child support, maintenance, attorney fees, and health insurance coverage.
(2) Paragraph 18:
Although well over three years elapsed between trial in December 2013 and the Standing Master's Final Decree in October 2017, the Standing Master did reopen the case for disclosure of updated financial information in May 2015. The parties supplied the updated information, and the Standing Master considered it alongside the additional information both parties filed between December 2013 and October 2017 before issuing the Final Decree. The Final Decree divided the marital home, condominium, and 401(k) retirement account according to their values as of the Final Decree date (October 2017), not the trial date (December 2013). The Final Decree also evenly divided Nikki's student loan debt, generally held each party responsible for their own debts, and held that any individual party's debt secured by a lien against the parties' real property "should be satisfied from the individual's marital portion of the equity in the real property awarded to each." Therefore, the liens Jason's parents and attorney placed on the parties' real property had no effect on Nikki's equity in the properties. Before adopting the Standing Master's Final Decree, the District Court heard argument testimony from Nikki regarding the liens and her post-trial debt. In her motion to reopen the case after the District Court adopted the Standing Master's Final Decree, Nikki provided no information to the District Court that it did not already have. The District Court did not abuse its discretion by denying her motion to reopen the case.

         An Amended Opinion is issued herewith.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the petition for rehearing is DENIED.

         The Clerk of Court is directed to mail copies hereof to ...


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