Haltom v. Haltom, A-11-886

CourtCourt of Appeals of Nebraska
Writing for the CourtCASSEL
Docket NumberNo. A-11-886,A-11-886
Decision Date01 May 2012


No. A-11-886


Filed May 1, 2012



Appeal from the District Court for Lancaster County: Steven D. Burns, Judge. Affirmed.

Douglas R. Lederer for appellant.

Terrance A. Poppe and Benjamin D. Kramer, of Morrow, Poppe, Watermeier & Lonowski, P.C., L.L.O., for appellee.


CASSEL, Judge.


John Haltom appeals from a decree dissolving, rather than annulling, his marriage to Brisa Haltom. He challenges the denial of an annulment and also attacks the division of property and awards of alimony, child support, and attorney fees. Because John failed to prove that Brisa's Mexican divorce did not become final before the parties' Nebraska marriage, he did not establish grounds for an annulment. And because the district court did not abuse its discretion in the relief it granted, we affirm the decree of the district court.


John filed a complaint for dissolution of marriage in 2009 in the district court for Lancaster County, Nebraska. In response, Brisa filed an answer and a cross-complaint for dissolution of marriage. In 2010, John filed an amended complaint for annulment, alleging that

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the marriage was the result of fraud and that Brisa was not legally able to marry at the time of their marriage.

Under both complaints, the custody of the parties' two minor children was at issue. John and Brisa's oldest child was born in 2006, prior to the parties' marriage. The parties' youngest child was born either in 2007--as listed on the original complaint and Brisa's cross-complaint--or in 2008--according to the amended complaint.

Early in the proceedings, Brisa filed a motion for temporary child support and temporary spousal support. The district court ordered John to pay temporary spousal support in the amount of $1,800 beginning October 1, 2009. Because the custody of the parties' two children was at issue in a separate juvenile case, the district court did not rule on the issue of temporary child support until the juvenile case was closed on July 1, 2011. At that time, the juvenile court gave Brisa legal and physical custody of the children and suspended John's parenting time indefinitely. Following this decision of the juvenile court, the district court ordered John to pay temporary child support in the amount of $1,500 for both children beginning July 1.

The case came for trial before the district court in August 2011. Over 2 days, the parties presented evidence on the circumstances of their marriage, their respective financial situations, and their personal and marital property. Much evidence was also submitted on the subject of child custody, which is not at issue on appeal.

The testimonies of John and Brisa established the events surrounding their marriage as follows: In December 2005, John met Brisa, a native of Mexico, while traveling in Rocky Point, Mexico. They immediately began dating and soon decided to get married. Although the parties dispute when exactly it occurred, at some point in the early weeks of their relationship, John learned that Brisa was married and had two children. Brisa was separated from her husband but not divorced, and the children lived with Brisa's family in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. At John's insistence, he and Brisa brought the two children to live with them in Rocky Point. Brisa also began the process of divorcing her husband, the cost of which was paid by John.

John stayed in Mexico with Brisa until February 2007, during which time the parties' oldest child was born. In February, Brisa finally obtained visas for herself and the children. At that time, John, Brisa, and the children moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. The parties' youngest child was born sometime after the move to Nebraska.

The exact date of the marriage between John and Brisa is less than certain, but it is undisputed that it occurred after the move to Nebraska and was performed in Lancaster County.

At an unknown date after John and Brisa's marriage, they separated. John moved to a house in Ashland, Nebraska. Brisa remained in Lincoln with the parties' two children and the two children from her previous marriage. Brisa testified that she has no intention of leaving Lincoln or returning to Mexico.

At trial, Brisa testified to her extremely limited employment history in both Mexico and Nebraska. She was a licensed nurse in Mexico, but she was working as a restaurant manager when she met John in 2005. Brisa had not been employed since moving to Nebraska. Indeed, Brisa testified that she believed she was not legally able to work because of her immigration status. She had a green card, but it was "on hold." Brisa stated that she planned to go back to nursing school in Nebraska once she could afford it and that it would take approximately 4 years for her to become a certified nurse in the United States. She asked for alimony in the amount of

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$2,500 per month for 4 years because it was of an amount and duration that would allow her to "get through . . . college" and become employed. When asked whether she needed alimony "to survive," Brisa responded, "I need." She testified that she had already borrowed over $80,000 to support herself and her children since the separation from John.

John testified that he was the sole shareholder in a corporation called Haltom Management. Through this corporation, John owned six adult novelty stores and collected an average salary of $65,000 per year. On his property statement, John valued his interest in Haltom Management at $2.5 million.

John also owned real estate located on South 72d Street in Omaha, Nebraska. He owned a one-half interest in the property prior to his marriage to Brisa and acquired full title by quitclaim deed on November 27, 2007. Yet, during his testimony, John stated that Haltom Management was paying the mortgage on the property and that "[i]t's basically the company's property."

John testified that he was the titleowner of five different vehicles, all of which he claimed were paid for by Haltom Management and "are really company cars." These vehicles included a Hummer, two 2005 Ford Explorers, a 2005 Ford Excursion, and a recreational vehicle. According to John, "the company cannot get its financing because of the type [of] business[,] so they have to put everything in my name and finance it." During his testimony, John stated that the Hummer had a purchase price of $60,000, that the Ford Explorers were worth $13,000 each, that the Ford Excursion was worth "a little more than the Explorers," and that the recreational vehicle was worth $40,000. On his property statement, John valued the Hummer at $80,000, the Ford Explorers at $10,000 each, the Ford Excursion at $15,000, and the recreational vehicle at $250,000.

On September 26, 2011, the district court issued a decree dissolving the marriage of John and Brisa. The court awarded custody of the parties' two minor children to Brisa and ordered John to pay monthly child support in the amount of $1,747.93 for two children and $1,218.90 for one child, along with a certain percentage of other expenses listed in the decree.

In the decree, the court also set forth its property division. The court determined that a one-half interest in the property on South 72d Street, the two Ford Explorers, the Ford Excursion, and all stock in Haltom Management were premarital assets held by John. The court found all remaining property to be marital property and divided it among the parties as follows: In addition to the above-mentioned premarital property, John received a one-fourth interest in the property on South 72d Street (i.e., half of the other one-half interest), the Hummer, and the recreational vehicle. Brisa was awarded the remaining one-fourth interest in the property on South 72d Street. Each party was awarded all furnishings and household effects in his or her possession and any ownership interests held in checking accounts, savings accounts, pensions, IRA's, retirement accounts, insurance policies, or annuities. As to the parties' debt, the court found that there were marital debts of $85,000 and that Brisa should assume those debts.

Finally, the court ordered John to pay alimony in the amount of $1,000 per month for 12 months, $10,000 toward Brisa's attorney fees, and a judgment of $135,000.

John timely appeals. Pursuant to authority granted to this court under Neb. Ct. R. App. P. § 2-111(B)(1) (rev. 2008), this case was ordered submitted without oral argument.

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John alleges, restated and reordered, that the district court erred (1) in failing to grant his request for an annulment, (2) in ordering alimony and in setting the duration of said alimony, (3) in calculating the amount of child support, (4) in awarding attorney fees to Brisa, (5) in determining that the building located on South 72d Street was a marital asset, and (6) in awarding Brisa a judgment of $135,000.


In an action for the dissolution of marriage, an appellate court reviews de novo on the record the trial court's determinations of custody, child support, property division, alimony, and attorney fees; these determinations, however, are...

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