Burak v. Burak, No. 1178

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtOpinion by Nazarian, J.
PartiesNATASHA BURAK v. GARY BURAK, ET AL.
Decision Date11 December 2020
Docket NumberNo. 1178

NATASHA BURAK
v.
GARY BURAK, ET AL.

No. 1178

COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS OF MARYLAND

September Term, 2019
December 11, 2020


Circuit Court for Montgomery County
Case No. 112675 FL

Nazarian, Gould, Wright, Alexander, Jr. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Opinion by Nazarian, J.

* This is an unreported opinion, and it may not be cited in any paper, brief, motion, or other document filed in this Court or any other Maryland Court as either precedent within the rule of stare decisis or as persuasive authority. Md. Rule 1-104.

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This case was last before this Court in 2016. In a reported opinion, we affirmed orders of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County awarding third-party custody of the minor child born to Natasha Burak ("Wife") and Mark Burak's ("Husband")1 parents, Martha and Gary Burak (the "Grandparents"), and awarding child support to them. Burak v. Burak (Burak I), 231 Md. App. 242, 267-72, 280-84 (2016). More importantly for present purposes, we also held that the circuit court had erred in permitting the Grandparents to intervene in the property distribution portion of the divorce trial, and we reversed the provisions of the divorce judgment awarding the Grandparents a share of the proceeds from the sale of the marital home. Id. at 273-78. Before our mandate issued, however, Wife and Husband already had sold the marital home, and the property distribution judgment in favor of the Grandparents was satisfied from the proceeds of that sale.

The Court of Appeals granted Wife's petition for a writ of certiorari on the third-party custody and child support issues—not on property distribution—and reversed our holdings on custody and child support. Burak v. Burak (Burak II), 455 Md. 564 (2017). On remand after that decision, Wife filed an unopposed request for judgment in her favor and against the Grandparents for her share of the house proceeds, plus interest accruing from the date of the divorce judgment. The circuit court denied the request for judgment, ruling that Wife must file a separate action to recover her share of the proceeds that already had

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been distributed to the Grandparents. Wife appeals from that judgment, and we reverse and remand with directions that the court enter judgment in Wife's favor.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The Divorce Proceedings

The custody and property distribution parts of the divorce proceeding were bifurcated. With regard to property distribution, Husband and Wife entered into a voluntary separation and property settlement agreement that provided, among other things, they would list the marital home for sale, split the carrying costs until it was sold, and split any costs to make it saleable as recommended by their realtor. At the property distribution hearing, though, the court permitted the Grandparents to intervene and assert a claim to a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the marital home. The Grandparents contended that they were entitled to the first $131,000 of the proceeds because they had loaned Husband and Wife that amount to purchase the property. Burak I, at 258. Wife took the position that the funds Grandparents had provided were a gift. Id. at 274-75. The court found that the Grandparents had made an interest-free loan of $131,000 to Husband and Wife, conditioned on a promise to repay it when they sold the marital home, and were entitled to reimbursement in that amount from the proceeds of the sale. Id. at 258-59.

The judgment of absolute divorce entered on January 23, 2015 incorporated (but did not merge) the voluntary separation and property settlement agreement. In relevant part, the divorce judgment ordered the sale of the marital home and supplemented the agreement by ordering that "the sum of . . . $131,000[] be, and hereby is . . . awarded to [the

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Grandparents] from the total proceeds of the sale of the [marital home] before any other distributions are to be made." The divorce judgment further directed the clerk to enter a money judgment against Wife and Husband and in favor of the Grandparents in that amount. Any remaining proceeds, after reimbursement for costs to make the property saleable, were to be "divided equally" between Husband and Wife. On January 27, 2015, the court entered judgment in favor of the Grandparents for $131,000.

A little over nine months later, before this Court issued its decision in Burak I, Husband and Wife sold the marital home for $404,000. From the proceeds of the sale, $139,398.26 was distributed to the Grandparents to satisfy the judgment.2

B. Burak I And Burak II

Less than three months later,3 this Court held that the circuit court had erred by permitting the Grandparents to intervene in the property distribution portion of the divorce hearing. We reasoned that the divorce case was not an appropriate forum for an unsecured creditor of the divorcing parties to make a claim against the proceeds of sold marital property. Id. at 278. (And we expressed no view as to the merits of the Grandparents' claim for reimbursement. Id.) Our mandate, issued on January 6, 2017, stated in relevant part that

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"Judgment of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County reversed as to the divorce property distribution award." We affirmed the circuit court's rulings on custody and child support.

Wife petitioned for certiorari review in the Court of Appeals, which was granted. Burak v. Burak, 452 Md. 2 (2017). The Grandparents did not seek certiorari review of our reversal of the property distribution award, though, so our judgment on that point became final, pending issuance of the mandate. On August 29, 2017, the Court of Appeals reversed this Court's decision solely as to custody and child support. Burak II, 455 Md. at 667, 669. And on October 10, 2017, we vacated our earlier mandate4 and ordered that "the judgment of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County be, and is hereby, reversed."

C. The Remand

Three months later, the circuit court issued an order that stated that this Court had "reversed as to the trial court's property distribution award" but had otherwise affirmed the trial court's orders; that the Court of Appeals then reversed the orders on custody and child support; and that "[p]ursuant to the Maryland Court of Appeals' decision and directions," the circuit court vacated its "Oral Decision, Interim Order, Second Interim Order, and Final Order," all of which pertained to custody and child support. The circuit court did not vacate the provisions of the divorce judgment awarding the Grandparents a share of the proceeds from the sale of the marital home and directing that judgment be entered in their favor. A

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little over a year later, Wife, who was representing herself, filed a Request to Enter Judgment.5 She...

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