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Archdekin v. Archdekin

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

June 27, 2017


         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Buchanan County, Missouri The Honorable Daniel Fred Kellogg, Judge

          Before Thomas H. Newton, P.J., James Edward Welsh, and Karen King Mitchell, JJ.


         Jarrett Alan Archdekin (Husband) appeals the circuit court's judgment dissolving his marriage to Sybil Anne Archdekin (Wife). Husband contests the court's decision to award maintenance to Wife. We affirm in part and vacate in part.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Husband and Wife were married in May 1994. They separated a little over seventeen years later, and Wife filed a petition for dissolution of the marriage in September 2011. When the matter went to trial in 2013, the parties' three children were ages 16, 13, and 8.

         The evidence at trial showed that Wife did not hold any permanent full-time employment outside the home during the marriage. Shortly before the parties separated, Wife began working as a secretary at Missouri Western State University earning $1, 977 per month. Husband was a real estate developer operating under three business entities: Archdekin Investments, Inc., Earthworks Excavation Company, LLC, and The Commons Development Group, LLC. Most of the couple's assets, including their home, were owned or collateralized by the businesses, and the businesses paid their personal expenses. The businesses were joined as parties to the dissolution case and denominated Third Party Respondents.

         After two days of trial, the court took the matter under advisement. Before the court pronounced judgment. The Commons Development Group filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, resulting in an automatic stay of any litigation related to it.

         On July 23, 2013, the trial court entered an Interlocutory Judgment in which it found that the Third Party Respondents were the "alter ego" of Husband and the "corporate veil should be pierced." The court observed that Husband had represented to lending institutions that his net worth was over $7 million and that, while he reported a monthly income of $2, 142, he listed no expenses for utilities, cell phone, credit card payments, or mortgages on his two homes, as those were paid by the businesses. In light of those facts, the court imputed a $5, 000 monthly income to Husband and ordered him to pay $454 a month in child support.

         The court divided a small amount of property owned by the parties (as opposed to the Third Party Respondents), but, due to the bankruptcy cases, and because Husband's assets were "cross-collateralized with numerous lending institutions, " the court was unable to value or award any of the Third Party Respondents' assets at that time. The court "tabled" the division of the Third Party Respondents' property and assets "until the bankruptcy stay is lifted."

         The trial court found that Wife could not support herself based on her income or the assets awarded to her in the dissolution.[1] After considering all relevant statutory factors, the court ordered Husband to pay to Wife "spousal maintenance in the amount of $1, 500 per month commencing the 1st day of November, 2011 [the date Husband first entered his appearance in the case], until the same is modified, either party is deceased, or [Wife] remarries."

         The trial court later entered a First Amended Interlocutory Judgment, adding a declaration that the judgment was "final for purposes of appeal as to all issues herein addressed." Nevertheless, this Court dismissed the appeals of Husband and the Third Party Respondents because the trial court did not also make an express finding that "there was no just reason for delay, " pursuant to Rule 74.01(b). Shortly thereafter, another Third Party Respondent, Earthworks Excavation Company, filed a petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

         On January 14, 2014, the trial court entered a Second Amended Interlocutory Judgment, in which it corrected a clerical error and added that the judgment was final for purposes of appeal "as there is no just reason for delay." Otherwise, it was identical to the prior interlocutory judgment. This Court dismissed Husband's and the Third Party Respondents' appeals of the 2014 Second Amended Interlocutory Judgment as untimely.

         In October 2015, Husband filed a "Motion to Reopen the Evidence and to Enter an Amended Order." In March 2016, the court reopened the evidence to adjudicate the unresolved property issues. It also took up Husband's motion to reopen or amend, treating it as a motion to modify. The parties reached an agreement on the division of property and allocation of debt, and Wife dismissed her claims against the Third Party Respondents. The parties also reached an agreement about emancipation of the oldest child and custody of the other children. As to the unresolved issues of child support, maintenance, and attorneys' fees, Wife submitted an updated Income and Expense Statement showing a monthly income of $2, 100 and total expenses of over $5, 000. Husband's updated Income and Expense Statement reported an income of $2, 500 and expenses of $6, 600.[2]

         The trial court issued its "Final Judgment" on April 19, 2016, making a final distribution of all the parties' property and debts. The court found that a substantial and continuing change in circumstances justified modification of the parenting plan and child support and entered orders emancipating the oldest child and modifying custody and child support. As to the $1, 500 a month maintenance award, the court found that Husband did not establish that there had been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances since 2014 and, thus, no modification should occur. The court further found that, due to Husband's "income producing capabilities, " the $5, 000 monthly income imputed to him had not changed. The court opined that, even if it had not treated Husband's motion as a motion to modify, his imputed income (and the corresponding maintenance award) would be unchanged.

         Standard of Review

         As in any court-tried case, we will affirm the circuit court's judgment in a dissolution proceeding 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 view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's decision and disregard all evidence to the contrary. Evans v. Evans, 45 S.W.3d 523, 526 (Mo. App. 2001).


         Husband raises six points on appeal, all of which contest the award of maintenance. Section 452.335.1 RSMo, [3] sets forth a two-step process for establishing maintenance. The trial court must first determine whether the spouse seeking maintenance (1) lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him, to provide for his reasonable needs, and (2) is unable to support himself through appropriate employment. Scruggs v. Scruggs, 161 S.W.3d 383, 394 (Mo. App. 2005). If the court finds that a spouse has met those threshold requirements, it then considers the factors listed in section 452.335.2[4] to determine the amount and duration of the award. See Dowell v. Dowell, 203 S.W.3d 271, 285 (Mo. App. 2006).

         "The trial court has broad discretion in awarding maintenance, and its decision will not be overturned absent an abuse of discretion." Russum v. Russum, 214 S.W.3d 376, 380 (Mo. App. 2007). A judgment that "is so arbitrary and unreasonable as to shock one's sense of justice" constitutes an abuse of discretion. Calhoun v. Calhoun, 156 S.W.3d 410, 415 (Mo. App. 2005). If reasonable persons can differ about the propriety of the trial court's action, it cannot be said that the court abused its discretion. Alberty v. Alberty, 260 S.W.3d 856, 860 (Mo. App. 2008).

         Points I and II

         Husband's first two points are interrelated, and so we address them together. Husband contends in Point I that the trial court misapplied the law in declaring the 2014 Second Amended Interlocutory Judgment a final judgment from which an appeal could be taken, because it "did not dispose of all issues, including the complete division of marital property and debts."

         Section 452.330.1 requires the circuit court to "make specific findings as to whether each asset before the court is marital property subject to division, is non-marital property to be set aside, or is property over which the dissolution court has no control." Gillette v. Gillette, 416 S.W.3d 354, 356 (Mo. App. 2013). "The court is then required to set apart to each spouse each spouse's non-marital property and to divide the marital property and debt as it deems just." Id. Our courts have consistently held that, where a trial court does not fully divide the property of the dissolution participants, "such decrees are not final judgments from which an appeal can be taken." Michel v. Michel, 94 S.W.3d 485, 488 (Mo. App. 2003).

         "It is well established that finality of judgment is necessary for appellate jurisdiction, and for a judgment to be final it must dispose of all parties and all issues." Joy v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 755 S.W.2d 13, 14 (Mo. App. 1988). Otherwise, it is an "interlocutory judgment" that "reserves and leaves some further question or direction for future determination and is thus not final for purposes of appeal." Id. In a case involving multiple claims and multiple parties, Rule 74.01(b)[5] provides an exception to the general rule regarding final judgments. Atkins v. Jester, 309 S.W.3d 418, 423 (Mo. App. 2010). To utilize that exception, the trial court must denominate the judgment as final for purposes of review and make an express finding that "there is no just ...

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