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.

B.J.E. v. J.B.E.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

September 27, 2016

B.J.E., Appellant/Cross-Respondent,
v.
J.B.E., Respondent/Cross-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County Honorable Kristine A. Kerr

          KURT S. ODENWALD, Judge

         Introduction

         B.J.E. ("Wife") and J.B.E. ("Husband") both appeal from a judgment of the motion court on Husband's motion for contribution from Wife. This appeal centers on the property distribution in a dissolution judgment dissolving the parties' marriage (the "Property Distribution" and the "Dissolution Judgment"). The Dissolution Judgment required the parties to sell the marital home, apply the proceeds to specific marital debt, and split "equally" any shortfall if the proceeds did not fully satisfy the debt. Part of the debt was the parties' pre-2007 tax liabilities (the "pre-2007 taxes"). The parties' joint tax attorney settled with the taxing authorities. Husband paid the full amount of the pre-2007 taxes. Upon Husband's motion, the motion court ordered Wife to repay Husband for her half of the pre-2007 taxes at a rate of $150 per month until the obligation was satisfied. (the "payment plan"). On appeal, Wife argues that the provision of the Dissolution Judgment regarding the pre-2007 taxes was too indefinite to be enforced and further argues that Husband's voluntary payment of the entire tax liability precluded any repayment liability for her half of the tax debt. Husband argues that the motion court lacked authority to stay the judgment and implement a payment plan allowing Wife to repay her half of the pre-2007 taxes over time.

         The Dissolution Judgment allocating the parties' debt was sufficiently definite to enforce. Because the voluntary-payment doctrine does not apply, Wife is liable to Husband for her half of the tax debt. Further, the motion court had no authority under Missouri law to modify the initial Property Distribution of the Dissolution Judgment through the monthly payment plan. Thus, the motion court misapplied the law. We reverse that portion of the motion court's judgment instituting the payment plan and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Factual and Procedural History

         Husband and Wife obtained a divorce in 2007. Under the Dissolution Judgment, the trial court divided the couple's assets and debts, and ordered Husband to pay Wife maintenance. The Property Distribution required the parties to sell the marital home. The proceeds from that sale first went to satisfy specific debts, including "income tax liabilities for years prior to 2007." If the home-sale proceeds failed to satisfy the debt, Husband and Wife were ordered to make up such a shortfall "equally."

         Years later, Husband filed a motion to modify his maintenance and for contribution[1] from Wife to recover her portion of the pre-2007 taxes. Husband averred that he had "paid, in full, all remaining shortfall indebtedness to the Internal Revenue Service and the State of Missouri." Husband sought an order compelling Wife to repay half of the pre-2007 taxes, as contemplated by the Property Distribution.

         The motion court granted Husband's motion for contribution. The motion court found that the couple's joint tax attorney had negotiated a settlement for the pre-2007 taxes, after which Husband paid $215, 880 and Wife paid nothing. Thus, the motion court concluded that, under the Property Distribution, Wife was required to pay half ($107, 940) of the settlement. Despite finding Wife responsible for half of the pre-2007 taxes, the motion court cited equitable reasons and declared that Wife would be responsible for only $10, 000.

         The parties filed post-judgment motions, and the motion court subsequently amended its judgment. The amended judgment again recognized Wife's responsibility for half of the pre-2007 taxes. The motion court acknowledged that it was bound under the terms of the Property Distribution in the Dissolution Judgment, withdrew its previous order reducing Wife's obligation to $10, 000, and entered judgment against Wife in the full amount of $107, 940. The motion court then stayed its judgment provided Wife paid the full $107, 940 at a rate of $150 per month. Husband was to deduct the $150 monthly payment from his ongoing maintenance payments to Wife. The motion court reasoned that the large imbalance between Husband's and Wife's financial conditions justified the monthly payment arrangement. Both parties appealed to this Court.

         Points on Appeal

         Wife raises two points on appeal and Husband raises one point in his cross-appeal. Both of Wife's points argue that the motion court erred by ordering her to reimburse Husband for her portion of the pre-2007 taxes. In Point One, Wife argues that the provision in the Property Distribution relating to the pre-2007 taxes was too indefinite to be enforceable. In Point Two, Wife asserts that the voluntary payment doctrine precludes Husband from seeking any repayment of the tax liability from her. On cross-appeal, Husband posits that the motion court lacked authority to modify the original Property Distribution by introducing a payment plan allowing Wife to retire the debt upon her payment of $150 a month.

         Standard of Review

         In a court-tried case, the judgment must be affirmed unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law. Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). We accord great deference to the motion court's factual findings and credibility determinations. Pratt v. Ferber, 335 S.W.3d 90, 93 (Mo. App. W.D. 2011). "A motion court may believe or disbelieve all, or any part of any witness's testimony." Id. We view the evidence, along with the reasonable inferences therefrom, in the light most favorable to the judgment. Id.

         Discussion

         I.Wife's Point One-Enforceability of the Property ...


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.