Decision Date11 May 2010
Docket NumberNo. SC 90458.,SC 90458.
Citation313 S.W.3d 643
PartiesIn re the MARRIAGE OF Gerald A. HILLIS and Elizabeth M. Hillis. Gerald A. Hillis, Appellant, v. Elizabeth M. Hillis, Respondent.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Amy Bonifield Galloway and Kristi J. Booker, Spain Miller & Spain LLC, Poplar Buff, for Appellant.

Benjamin E. Thompson and L. Dwayne Hackworth, Hackworth, Hackworth & Ferguson LLC, Piedmont, for Respondent.


The parties dispute the division of marital property in this dissolution of marriage case. The trial court received conflicting evidence as to Wife's contributions to the funeral home's increase in value during the marriage. The question concerns the trial court's determination that the parties should evenly divide $200,000, which represented the marital property value of Husband's separate funeral home business. Substantial evidence supports the trial court's determination. The judgment is affirmed.

Standard of review

The trial court has considerable discretion in determining whether, as a result of marital services or labor, non-marital property has increased in value and whether the increase should be determined to be marital property. In re Marriage of Patroske, 888 S.W.2d 374, 378 (Mo.App.1994). As a result, an appellate court will not disturb the trial court's decision on such matters without a clear showing of an abuse of discretion. Id. This Court presumes the trial court's order is correct, and the party challenging it has the burden of overcoming that presumption. Id.

A judgment in a dissolution case must be affirmed if there is substantial evidence to support it, it is not against the weight of the evidence, and it neither erroneously declares nor erroneously applies the law. Rule 84.13(d); Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). All of the evidence and permissible inferences therefrom are viewed in the light most favorable to the trial court's decision, and all contrary evidence and inferences are to be disregarded. Marriage of Patroske at 378.


Gerald Hillis (Husband) owned a funeral home. In October 2001, Husband's second marriage was dissolved. The dissolution decree valued the funeral home at $20,000.

Elizabeth Hillis (Wife) began working at the funeral home in January 2002. When she began employment at the funeral home, Wife received $800 bi-weekly. She worked, on average, 40 to 60 hours per week.

Husband and Wife married in April 2002. Shortly thereafter, Wife received notice of a tax lien placed on her pre-marital property to secure payment of approximately $110,000 for taxes owed by the funeral home and Husband. Wife also learned of approximately $250,000 missing from the corporation's trust account, $40,000 in uncollected accounts payable, and $183,000 in bank loans.

At the funeral home, Wife conducted all business and corporate banking. During the course of the marriage, Wife participated in refinancing the funeral home's debt both as a corporate officer and as a personal guarantor. She kept the books, managed the office, arranged advertising, made capital improvements to the funeral home, and introduced new products.

As a result of their efforts, Husband and Wife were able to reduce the funeral home's debt and improve the business so that, at trial, the parties estimated its value as between $450,000 and $600,000. The trial court determined that Wife's contribution of substantial services resulted in the increase in value of the funeral home by reduction of the corporate indebtedness and that she was not adequately compensated for her services. The court also determined that Wife was entitled to share in the increase in the value of the corporation to the extent of being awarded $100,000.



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7 cases
  • Lollar v. Lollar
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • 1 Septiembre 2020
    ... ... Ann (Lawson) Lollar ("Wife") appeals from the circuit court's judgment dissolving her marriage to Richard Dwain Lollar ("Husband") and distributing the marital estate. Wife claims the circuit ... This Court disregards all evidence and inferences to the contrary. In re Marriage of Hillis , 313 S.W.3d 643, 644 (Mo. banc 2010). This Court does not review credibility determinations or ... ...
  • Parciak v. Parciak
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 7 Agosto 2018
    ... ... the trial court's judgment of dissolution ("Judgment"), inter alia , dissolving their marriage; awarding Wife non-modifiable maintenance, terminable upon the earliest of a listed event to occur; ... In re Marriage of Hillis , 313 S.W.3d 643, 644 (Mo. banc 2010). "The burden of demonstrating error is on the party ... ...
  • Landewee v. Landewee
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • 25 Abril 2017
    ... ... Landewee (hereinafter, "Wife") appeals the trial court's judgment dissolving her marriage to John E. Landewee (hereinafter, "Husband"). Wife claims the trial court erred in: (1) failing to ... In re Marriage of Hillis , 313 S.W.3d 643, 644 (Mo. banc 2010). "The burden of demonstrating error is on the party ... ...
  • Bowman v. Prinster
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 29 Noviembre 2012
    ... ... Louis County dissolving his marriage to Susan Bowman (Wife). Husband claims the trial court erred in: (1) permitting his attorneys to ... In re Marriage of Hillis, 313 S.W.3d 643, 644 (Mo. banc 2010). Discussion A. Withdrawal of Attorneys and Denial of ... ...
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1 books & journal articles
  • § 10.02 The Separate Property Business
    • United States
    • Full Court Press Divorce, Separation and the Distribution of Property Title CHAPTER 10 The Closely Held Business
    • Invalid date
    ...Abood v. Abood, 119 P.3d 980 (Alaska 2005).[168] Gilman v. Gilman, 32 Va. App. 104, 526 S.E.2d 763 (2000).[169] Hillis v. Hillis, 313 S.W.3d 643 (Mo. 2010).[170] Fleishhacker v. Fleishhacker, 39 So.3d 904 (Miss. App. 2009).[171] Kimbrough v. Kimbrough, 76 So.3d 715 (Miss. App. 2011). [172] ......

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