In re Marriage of Wright, 012320 COCA, 18CA2342

Docket Nº:18CA2342
Opinion Judge:TOW J.
Party Name:In re the Marriage of Wayne Marcus Wright, Jr., Appellant, v. Karen Cadine Wright, Appellee.
Attorney:Gwendolyn M. Lawson, Colorado Springs, Colorado, for Appellant McKinney & Associates P.C., Nathan D. McKinney, Erin Gardner, Amanda C. Musselwhite, Austin G. Jackson, Colorado Springs, Colorado, for Appellee
Judge Panel:JUDGE J. JONES and JUDGE FOX concur.
Case Date:January 23, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of Colorado, Seventh Division

2020 COA 11

In re the Marriage of Wayne Marcus Wright, Jr., Appellant,


Karen Cadine Wright, Appellee.

No. 18CA2342

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Seventh Division

January 23, 2020

El Paso County District Court No. 18DR2009 Honorable Theresa M. Cisneros, Judge.

Gwendolyn M. Lawson, Colorado Springs, Colorado, for Appellant

McKinney & Associates P.C., Nathan D. McKinney, Erin Gardner, Amanda C. Musselwhite, Austin G. Jackson, Colorado Springs, Colorado, for Appellee



¶ 1 Wayne Marcus Wright, Jr. (husband), appeals from the property division, maintenance award, and an attorney fees sanction entered in connection with the dissolution of his marriage to Karen Cadine Wright (wife). We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings. In doing so, we hold that a district court errs when it fails to make specific findings to support its maintenance award, and we set forth in detail the step-by-step procedure the district court must follow when determining maintenance.

I. Property Division

¶ 2 Husband contends that the property division is inequitable, arguing that the court (1) failed to value the personal property; (2) failed to include wife's Jamaican property as part of the marital estate; and (3) ordered him to pay more of the marital debts. We perceive no abuse of discretion in the property division. See In re Marriage of Powell, 220 P.3d 952, 954 (Colo.App. 2009).

A. Applicable Law

¶ 3 The district court shall divide the marital property in such proportions as it deems just. § 14-10-113(1), C.R.S. 2019. The property division must be equitable, but not necessarily equal. In re Marriage of Antuna, 8 P.3d 589, 594 (Colo.App. 2000). And an equitable division depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. In re Marriage of Balanson, 25 P.3d 28, 35 (Colo. 2001). "The key to an equitable distribution is fairness, not mathematical precision." In re Marriage of Gallo, 752 P.2d 47, 55 (Colo. 1988).

B. Analysis

1. Valuation

¶ 4 A district court is required to find the approximate current value of all property owned by the parties. In re Marriage of Zappanti, 80 P.3d 889, 892 (Colo.App. 2003). But specific findings as to the value of each asset are not always required. See In re Marriage of Page, 70 P.3d 579, 582 (Colo.App. 2003). For example, if the parties' valuations of an asset conflict, the court may order that each party should retain the property in his or her possession without attributing a value. See Antuna, 8 P.3d at 595.

¶ 5 Wife valued the personal property at $2900, and husband initially said it was worth $500. But at the hearing, husband offered unsubstantiated "estimates" of value for particular items, such as $500 for the bedroom furniture, "somewhere in the range of $600, $700" for lamps, and "several hundred [dollars]" for paintings and mirrors.

¶ 6 On this conflicting and imprecise evidence, we do not find an abuse of discretion in the court's conclusion that it was "almost an impossibility" to value the personal property and its finding that it was equitable for each party to retain the property in his or her possession. See id.

2. Jamaican Home

¶ 7 Husband believed that wife and her mother owned a home in Jamaica. Wife testified that she no longer owned the home after her mother refinanced it but acknowledged that it was worth $3600. Even if we assume that wife still owns the home, husband testified without contradiction that the home was wife's premarital property.

¶ 8 Marital property does not include property acquired by one party before the marriage. See § 14-10-113(4); see also § 14-10-113(1) (court must set separate property aside to each spouse before dividing marital property). Save for exceptions not relevant here, only the increase in value of separate property is marital property subject to division. See § 14-10-113(1)(d), (4). Yet there was no evidence at the hearing to show any increase in value for the property in Jamaica and, thus, no marital value for the court to attribute as part of the property division. See Zappanti, 80 P.3d at 892 (parties must provide evidence sufficient to support their claims); see also In re Marriage of Krejci, 2013 COA 6, ¶ 23 (a party's failure to give the court sufficient information to rule on an issue does not provide grounds for reversal). We thus perceive no error in the omission of this property from the property division.

3. Marital Debt

¶ 9 The court should not assign marital liabilities disproportionately to one spouse. In re Marriage of Speirs, 956 P.2d 622, 623 (Colo.App. 1997) (citing In re Marriage of Kiefer, 738 P.2d 54 (Colo.App. 1987)). However, Speirs cannot be read to require a mathematically equal division of marital debt. For one thing, such a requirement would be inconsistent with the "equitable, but not necessarily equal" principle reiterated in Antuna. Moreover, in Kiefer, on which the Speirs division relied, a division of this court reversed a property division that had divided a portion of the value of the marital home between the spouses but had allocated all of the encumbrance on the home to only one spouse. The division specifically disavowed any requirement that the court deduct the amount of the encumbrances before dividing the net value of the home. 738 P.2d at 56. Moreover, it noted that under the circumstances of that case - where the court had found that the parties' contributions to the marriage and the marital estate were roughly equal - "equity requires that wife share a part of the debt incurred on the home during the marriage as well as a part of the increase in the home's value." Id. (emphasis added). Thus, Kiefer and, by extension, Speirs merely stand for the general proposition acknowledged in Antuna - that the property and debt division must be equitable.

¶ 10 The court here found that all the parties' debt was marital, which husband does not appear to dispute on appeal. Given the disparity in the parties' income, the court deemed it fair to divide the marital debt proportionately to the parties' incomes, so it required husband to pay $29, 486.90 of the marital debt while wife would pay the remaining $12, 886.47. As the record shows that husband's income is more than four times wife's, the court could reasonably conclude that husband had the financial means with which to pay more of the debts. See § 14-10-113(1)(c) (requiring the court to consider the economic circumstances of each spouse when dividing property); see also In re Marriage of Faulkner, 652 P.2d 572, 574 (Colo. 1982) ("It should appear obvious that a spouse's earning capabilities are properly part of the 'economic circumstances' the court must consider in compliance with [the maintenance statute]."). We thus see no abuse of...

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