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Montague v. Montague

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 16, 2014

HARVEY LYNWOOD MONTAGUE, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
TERESA MONTAGUE, Defendant

Heard in the Court of Appeals: October 21, 2014.

Page 72

Appeal by Defendant from judgment entered 15 August 2013 by Judge Debra S. Sasser in Wake County District Court, No. 10 CVD 4524.

Sandlin Family Law Group, by Deborah Sandlin, for Plaintiff-appellee.

Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP, by Tobias S. Hampson and K. Edward Greene, for Defendant-appellant.

DILLON, Judge. Judge HUNTER, Robert C. and Judge DAVIS concur.

OPINION

Page 73

DILLON, Judge.

Defendant Teresa Montague appeals from a trial court's equitable distribution judgment which awarded an unequal division of marital and divisible assets. For the following reasons, we affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.

I. Background

In 1986, Harvey Lynwood Montague, Jr. (" Husband" ) and Teresa Montague (" Wife" ) were married. Husband is active in the commercial real estate business.

In 2010, Husband commenced this action seeking absolute divorce and equitable distribution. Wife filed her answer and asserted counterclaims. The parties were granted a divorce.

In 2012, a bench trial on the equitable distribution claim was conducted with the parties presenting testimony and evidence regarding certain assets. On 15 August 2013, the trial court entered its equitable distribution judgment/order granting unequal distribution in favor of Husband. Wife filed timely notice of appeal from this judgment.

II. Standard of Review

In its judgment, the trial court entered extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law with regard to the classification, valuation, and distribution of assets. Our standard of review of such judgments is well-settled: " [W]hen the trial court sits without a

Page 74

jury, the standard of review on appeal is whether there was competent evidence to support the trial court's findings of fact and whether its conclusions of law were proper in light of such facts." Lee v. Lee, 167 N.C.App. 250, 253, 605 S.E.2d 222, 224 (2004) (citation and quotation marks omitted). " While findings of fact by the trial court in a non-jury case are conclusive on appeal if there is evidence to support those findings, conclusions of law are reviewable de novo." Id. (citation omitted). The trial court's unchallenged findings of fact are presumed to be supported by competent evidence and are binding on appeal. Best v. Gallup, __ N.C.App. __, __, 715 S.E.2d 597, 598 (2011) (citation omitted), appeal dismissed and disc. review denied, 365 N.C. 559, 724 S.E.2d 505 (2012). The trial court is the sole judge of the weight and credibility of the evidence. Phelps v. Phelps, 337 N.C. 344, 357, 446 S.E.2d 17, 25 (1994). " [W]hen reviewing an equitable distribution order, the standard of review is limited to a determination of whether there was a clear abuse of discretion. A trial court may be reversed for abuse of discretion only upon a showing that its actions are manifestly unsupported by reason." Peltzer v. Peltzer, __ N.C.App. __, __, 732 S.E.2d 357, 359-60 (citations omitted), disc. review denied, 366 N.C. 417, 735 S.E.2d 186 (2012).

III. Analysis

" The trial court must classify, value, and distribute marital property and divisible property in equitable distribution actions." Ubertaccio v. Ubertaccio, 161 N.C.App. 352, 353-54, 588 S.E.2d 905, 907 (2003). On appeal, Wife argues that the trial court erred in its judgment in its classification and ...


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