in the Court of Appeals 29 January 2019.
by defendant from order entered 4 April 2018 by Judge Andrea
E. Dray in Buncombe County District Court No. 11 CVD 3725.
Siemens Family Law Group, by Diane K. McDonald, for
Charles R. Brewer for defendant-appellant
Marilyn W. Sluder appeals from the trial court's order on
equitable distribution concluding that a refinanced mortgage
was a marital debt to be paid equally by defendant and
plaintiff James Bryan Sluder. Where the findings of fact are
supported by competent evidence and support the conclusions
of law, we affirm the trial court's ruling.
and defendant were married on 25 June 1994 until they
separated on 1 July 2007. An absolute divorce was entered on
29 October 2012. During the course of their marriage, the
parties acquired several items of property, including real
estate properties. One of the properties was a residential
property on Panorama Drive. On the date of separation, the
parties had an existing mortgage of $207, 780.21 on the
Panorama Drive property.
to any court involvement, the parties entered into a mutual
separation and property settlement agreement regarding the
division of their marital assets and debts on 28 February
2008. The separation agreement listed, inter alia,
the Panorama Drive property as marital property
"formerly used by the parties as their family
residence" and noted that the parties agreed to be
"equally responsible for mortgage payments." The
parties also agreed that plaintiff "shall be allowed to
reside in home at [the Panorama Drive property] and be
responsible for utilities, general maintenance, keeping the
house clean and in market ready condition" until the
date of sale.
June 2008, four months after the parties executed the
separation agreement, plaintiff refinanced the existing
mortgage on the Panorama Drive property to pay off the
parties' marital debts. Plaintiff filed a complaint
seeking an absolute divorce and equitable distribution on 18
July 2011. Defendant filed an answer and a counterclaim for
equitable distribution. The trial court addressed the issue
of equitable distribution in three separate orders;
collectively serving as the trial court's equitable
March 2012, the trial court entered an order for partial
settlement for equitable distribution, in which the parties
agreed to list the Panorama Drive property for sale and
specifically set out that plaintiff agreed "to complete
the staining of the deck, paint the hallway and pressure
wash of the deck and other small repairs" in exchange
for defendant's agreement "to make stain and paint
available for the above repairs."
July 2012, the trial court entered a consent judgment for
equitable distribution, in which the parties agreed to list
the Panorama Drive property. Defendant also agreed to pay
plaintiff $22, 500, which "shall be paid first after the
payment of the ordinary expenses of sale of real estate from
the proceeds of the sale of the Panorama [Drive] property.
The subsequent percentage division of the proceeds of the
Panorama [Drive] property remains undecided by the parties
and shall be an issue for the [trial c]ourt."
October 2012, the trial court entered a judgment and order
for equitable distribution. The parties "had agreed that
each would pay one-half of the mortgage on [the Panorama
Drive property]" and the trial court ordered them to
split the proceeds upon sale of the Panorama Drive property
after payment of reasonable expenses--"[p]laintiff
[will] receiv[e] 47% of the proceeds and [d]efendant [will]
receiv[e] 53% of the proceeds[.] . . . [T]his result in part
is based on the fact that the parties have agreed that
[d]efendant can list the property as a realtor and will
receive at least 3% for the sale price." The trial court
permitted defendant, who had experience in the real estate
business, to handle the sale of the Panorama Drive property,
which included the sole discretion of setting the sale price.
early 2017, the parties were in dispute involving the sale of
the Panorama Drive property, and the trial court issued an
order on 18 April 2017 allowing defendant and her mother to
purchase the property. The contract was signed by the parties
in May 2017. Defendant took possession of the property and
paid one-half of the mortgage payments until September 2017.
Although defendant had stopped making mortgage payments, she
continued to reside at the property.
hearing was held before the trial court on 23 January 2018 to
address whether the refinanced mortgage should be designated
as a separate debt of plaintiff. On 20 March 2018, the trial
court issued an "Order In the Cause" and concluded
that "the refinanced debt on the Panorama Drive property
was the refinance of a marital ...