Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Slaughter v. Slaughter

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

July 18, 2017

MARTIN T. SLAUGHTER, Plaintiff
v.
NICOLE B. SLAUGHTER, Defendant

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 3 May 2017.

         Appeal by plaintiff and defendant from orders entered 31 March 2016 and 1 April 2016, and by plaintiff from order entered 29 September 2016, by Judge Lillian B. Jordan in New Hanover County No. 13 CVD 1301District Court.

          Pennington & Smith, P.L.L.C., by Ralph S. Pennington, for plaintiff-appellant.

          Ward and Smith, P.A., by John M. Martin, for defendant-appellee/cross-appellant.

          CALABRIA, Judge.

         Where competent evidence supported the trial court's findings of fact in its equitable distribution and alimony orders, and those findings in turn supported its conclusions of law, the trial court did not err in its findings and conclusions. Where affidavits on attorney's fees were admitted into evidence without objection, and the trial court made explicit findings regarding trial counsel's experience and the reasonableness of his fees, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney's fees. However, where there was no evidence that an expert witness was a court-appointed expert, the trial court erred in awarding expert witness costs for any expense other than the expert's testimony. Where wife raised issues on cross-appeal that were not raised on appeal, and did so outside of the 30-day window for appeals but within the 10-day window for cross-appeals, the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to dismiss her appeal with respect to the child support order. We affirm in part, remand in part, reverse in part, and dismiss in part.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Martin T. Slaughter ("husband") and Nicole B. Slaughter ("wife") were married on 21 September, 1996. Two children were born to the marriage. The parties separated on 18 May 2012, and husband filed a complaint on 1 April 2013, seeking child custody, child support, equitable distribution, and an interim distribution. He also filed a stipulation of marital misconduct. On 5 June 2013, wife filed an answer and counterclaim, seeking child custody, child support, equitable distribution, post-separation support and alimony, attorney's fees, and an interim distribution.

         On 8 October 2012, a temporary consent order on custody and release of records was entered. This order provided that husband would release his mental health records, and that subject to his compliance in releasing those records, the parties would be awarded joint custody of the children, with wife having primary physical custody and husband having visitation.

         On 26 June 2014, husband voluntarily dismissed his second and third claims (child support and equitable distribution) without prejudice. On 5 August 2014, husband moved for partial summary judgment with respect to the classification of shares owned by husband and wife in Winner Enterprises of Carolina Beach, LLC ("Winner"). Husband's motion alleged that his shares should be classified as his separate property, and wife's shares as her separate property.

         On 17 September 2014, the trial court entered an order on permanent custody. In this order, the trial court concluded that joint custody was in the children's best interest, and ordered that (1) the parties share joint legal custody; and (2) the parties share joint physical custody, with a schedule set out in the order.

         On 4 February 2015, wife moved that the court appoint an expert to value Winner, and by extension value the shares of husband and wife in the company, as well as Baker & Slaughter, P.A., a law firm in which husband had an interest. On 26 March 2015, wife filed a motion requesting, if the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines were applicable to the instant case, that the trial court deviate from the guidelines.

         On 31 March 2015, the trial court entered an order addressing multiple issues. First, the order required husband to pay wife an immediate interim distribution of $60, 000. Second, husband was to be solely responsible for the children's school tuition. The trial court also set dates for mediation and trial, and appointed an expert to value Winner. This expert was also to value husband's interest in Baker & Slaughter, P.A.

         On 19 June 2015, the parties agreed to several stipulations. First, they stipulated that their respective shares of Winner were separate property. They then stipulated to several facts about the value and date of acquisition of their shares of Winner.

         On 8 October 2015, the trial court entered an order appointing an expert to value all real property owned by the parties, including real property owned by Winner. On 31 March 2016, the trial court entered its order on equitable distribution ("the ED order"). The trial court concluded that an unequal division of marital and divisible property in favor of wife was equitable, and that a division of 60%/40% in wife's favor was appropriate. The trial court then ordered (1) that separate property be distributed; (2) that husband deed a certain piece of real property to wife; (3) that wife deed a certain piece of real property to husband; and (4) that husband pay wife a distributive award of $494, 772.

         On 1 April 2016, the trial court entered its order on child support ("the child support order"). The trial court concluded that wife was entitled to child support from husband, and that the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines were applicable to the case. The trial court then ordered husband to pay $1, 700 in monthly child support, to terminate when the younger child reached majority, plus medical and dental health coverage and all premiums, plus all of the children's unreimbursed health care costs. Husband was also ordered to pay all summer camp expenses. Husband was entitled to claim one child as a dependent for tax purposes, and wife was entitled to claim the other child.

         On 1 April 2016, the trial court also entered its order on alimony ("the alimony order"). The trial court concluded that wife was a dependent spouse and husband was a supporting spouse, that wife was entitled to alimony, that husband had engaged in infidelity prior to separation, that husband had the means and ability to pay alimony, and that wife, as a dependent spouse, was also entitled to an award of a portion of her attorney's fees. The trial court then ordered husband to pay $2, 786 in monthly alimony payments, to terminate in 2024. Husband was also ordered to pay wife's attorney's fees in the amount of $50, 000, minus a $30, 000 stipulated credit, for a total of $20, 000.

         On 25 April 2016, husband filed notice of appeal from the ED order and the alimony order. On 3 May 2016, wife filed notice of cross-appeal from the ED order and the child support order.

         On 10 June 2016, husband filed a motion to dismiss wife's cross-appeal of the child support order, on the grounds that (1) wife's cross-appeal of the child support order was filed more than 30 days after entry of that order, and (2) North Carolina Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c), which permits a cross-appellant to file a cross- appeal within 10 days of receiving notice of appeal, should not apply here, because husband did not appeal the child support order. On 29 September 2016, the trial court denied this motion. On 3 October 2016, husband appealed this order as well.

         II. Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

         In numerous arguments, husband contends that the trial court erred in failing to make certain findings of fact and conclusions of law, and in making erroneous findings of fact. We disagree.

         A. Standard of Review

         "The standard of review on appeal from a judgment entered after a non-jury trial is 'whether there is competent evidence to support the trial court's findings of fact and whether the findings support the conclusions of law and ensuing judgment.' " Cartin v. Harrison, 151 N.C.App. 697, 699, 567 S.E.2d 174, 176 (quoting Sessler v. Marsh, 144 N.C.App. 623, 628, 551 S.E.2d 160, 163 (2001)), disc. review denied, 356 N.C. 434, 572 S.E.2d 428 (2002).

         B. Analysis

         Husband challenges numerous findings of fact in the ED order and alimony order. We address husband's arguments with respect to each order in turn.

         1. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.