Heard in the Court of Appeals November 5, 2014.
This Decision is not final until expiration of the twenty-one day rehearing period. [North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure 32(b)]
Roberts & Stevens, P.A., by Phillip T. Jackson, for plaintiff-appellee.
Donald H. Barton, P.C., by Donald H. Barton, for defendant-appellant.
DIETZ, Judge. Judges BRYANT and DILLON concur.
Appeal by defendant from order entered 20 February 2014 by Judge Mack Brittain in Transylvania County District Court
No. 05 CVD 334.
This is the fourth time this equitable distribution case has come before us on appeal. The last time we heard this case, we remanded with instructions for the trial court to make a number of specific findings and then adjust its distributional decision accordingly.
In this fourth appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court's latest order suffers from seventeen separate reversible errors. This brings to mind an observation from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit which, faced with a similar situation, observed that " [w]hen a party comes to us with nine grounds for reversing the district court, that usually means there are none." Fifth Third Mortg. Co. v. Chi. Title Ins. Co., 692 F.3d 507, 509 (6th Cir. 2012).
Here, Defendant's seventeen arguments fall into three general categories. First, Defendant argues that the trial court made various findings outside the scope of the remand, thus violating the mandate rule. Second, Defendant contends that various fact findings are not supported by competent record evidence. Third, Defendant argues that the district court abused its discretion when selecting an appropriate distributive award.
For the reasons set forth below, we reject all seventeen arguments. When this Court remands an equitable distribution case for specific findings, such as the value of mortgages and tax liabilities, that remand necessarily authorizes the trial court to recalculate other related portions of the award that are impacted by the new findings (and, indeed, we specifically authorized the trial court to do so). With regard to whether the trial court's fact findings are supported by competent evidence, we cannot address Defendant's arguments because the record on appeal does not include the transcripts of the proceedings in which the trial court heard the relevant evidence. We are thus constrained to reject these arguments. Finally, the trial court was well within its discretion in reducing the distributive award to Defendant in light of its new fact findings on remand. Accordingly, we reject Defendant's arguments and affirm the trial court.
Facts and Procedural History
Plaintiff Barry Hoyt Bodie and Defendant Claire Voegler Bodie married in April 1996 and separated in July 2005. One month later, Plaintiff commenced an action for child custody and equitable distribution. On 3 August 2009, the trial court entered an order on the equitable distribution claim ordering Plaintiff to pay Defendant a distributive award of $100,000. Plaintiff appealed, but this Court dismissed the appeal as interlocutory because Defendant's alimony claim was still pending. Bodie v. Bodie, 208 N.C.App. 281, 702 S.E.2d 556 (2010) (unpublished) ( Bodie I ). In early 2011, after all issues were resolved in the lower court, Plaintiff again appealed to this Court. In an opinion filed 5 June 2012, we remanded to the trial court for additional findings of fact pertaining to the classification and values of specified items and to adjust any ...