In re the Marriage of Mary P. Petersen

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Citation22 S.W.3d 760
Parties(Mo.App. S.D. 2000) In re the Marriage of Mary P. Petersen and Ronald L. Petersen, Mary P. Petersen, Petitioner/Appellant, and Ronald L. Petersen, Jr., Respondent/Respondent. 22599 & 23130 0
Decision Date25 July 2000

Appeal From: Circuit Court of Jasper County, Hon. Gerald D. McBeth

Counsel for Appellant: Cheri Cole Simpkins

Counsel for Respondent: William G. McCaffree

Opinion Summary: None

Garrison, C.J., and Barney, J., concur.

James K. Prewitt, Judge

Mary P. Petersen (Wife) appeals the judgment of the trial court alleging error in its division of marital property, and in the inclusion of gift money from Wife's parents in calculating child support payments due from Ronald L. Petersen, Jr. (Husband). Wife also appeals from a contempt order entered by the trial court after her failure to make mortgage payments resulted in foreclosure of two houses owned by the parties. The appeals were consolidated.

The parties were married in Encino, California on June 8, 1991. On December 4, 1996, they separated. Wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage with the Jasper County Circuit Court on December 6, 1996. At that time, Wife and the two minor children moved from Carthage, Missouri, to the Kansas City area. The parties appeared before the circuit court on April 10 and 13, 1998, for trial of the dissolution proceeding.

A judgment was filed on April 24, 1998. Husband filed a motion to modify on April 28, 1998, followed by Wife's response and separate motion to modify. A post-trial hearing was held on July 17, 1998, and on July 27, 1998, the trial court set aside its first judgment and entered a new judgment. Wife filed a subsequent post-trial motion, which was heard by the court on August 14, 1998. A comprehensive Judgment Entry was filed on September 3, 1998. The September judgment is the subject of appeal no. 22599.1

In the September judgment, the court found that Husband's monthly gross income was $2,322, and Wife's monthly gross income from employment was $2,424. The court also found that wife had an additional income from the "Lemon trust and [had] received a relatively stable additional income from her parents of approximately $20,000 annually during the majority of the years of marriage." In its property division, the trial court awarded a residence located on South McGregor in Carthage to Husband. Husband was ordered to pay the mortgage on the property and hold wife harmless from any expense associated therewith.

Wife was awarded a residence on Grand Street, also in Carthage. Both parties agreed that the Grand Street property should be sold. The property had been listed with a real estate agent during the parties' separation, and the asking price had been reduced from $115,000 to $99,500. The property did not sell, however, and it was awarded to Wife together with a first and second mortgage. The second mortgage "straddled" the McGregor Street property, meaning that both properties secured the mortgage.

Including the residences, the marital property was divided as follows:

Awarded to Husband

Debt Value Equity

Residence and carriage house $41,108 $80,000 $38,892

S. McGregor, Carthage, Missouri

1992 Honda Civic VX -0- 5,975 5,975

Boatman's Bank checking account 300

Navy Federal Credit Union account 30

Husband's list household/personal 14,497

"Neither party wants" items 660

"Both parties want" items 8,865


Awarded to Wife

Debt Value Equity

Residence at 1427 Grand St. $60,132 $99,500

Carthage, Missouri 37,634 $1,734

1994 Mercury Villager 8,166 14,650 6,484

Bank of America checking acct. 342

Glendale Federal savings acct. 200

United Missouri Bank checking acct. 200

Payne Webber check 4,508

Wife's household/personal 25,315

"Neither party wants" items 2,030

"Both parties want" items 6,430


The final judgment awarded Wife child support of $629 monthly. The court did not accept either Form 14 provided by the parties, but prepared its own worksheet. On the Form 14 prepared by the court and attached to the judgment, the amount of monthly gross income for Wife was $3,971, and the amount of monthly gross income for Husband was $2,322. Reasonable work-related child care cost was found to be $681 per month.

Wife did not make the payments on the first or second mortgage secured by the Grand Street property, and a foreclosure sale was held on October 29, 1998 The mortgagee foreclosed the first mortgage on the Grand Street property at a sale for $62,898. The mortgagee then foreclosed on the second mortgage, and forced a foreclosure sale of the McGregor Street property. The McGregor property sold for $41,466.

Wife's first point alleges trial court error in division of marital property, asserting that the trial court did not properly consider all relevant factors in Section 452.330.1, RSMo 1994.

Review of this action is set forth in Rule 84.13(d). In reviewing the judgment of a court-tried case, this court views the evidence and permissible inferences drawn therefrom in a light most favorable to the judgment. The judgment will be affirmed unless it is against the weight of the evidence, there is insufficient evidence to support it, or it erroneously declares or applies the law. In re Marriage of Lafferty, 788 S.W.2d 359, 361 (Mo.App. 1990).

The trial court has considerable discretion in dividing marital property. Dardick v. Dardick, 670 S.W.2d 865, 869 (Mo. banc 1984). The trial court's division of property is presumed correct and appellant bears the burden of overcoming this presumption. Bixler v. Bixler, 810 S.W.2d 95, 100 (Mo.App. 1991). Equal division of property is not required, but the division of property should be fair, taking into account the factors enumerated in Section 452.330.1, RSMo 1994. Carter v. Carter, 940 S.W.2d 12, 16 (Mo.App. 1997).

One statutory factor to consider in dividing marital property is the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of marital property. Section 452.330.1(2). In this case, it was uncontroverted that Wife contributed $17,300 from her inheritance from her grandmother as a down payment on the McGregor residence. The trial court should have taken into consideration these separate funds Wife contributed to marital property when awarding the property to Husband. See Abrams v. Abrams, 787 S.W.2d 902, 903-04 (Mo.App. 1990), and Falvey v. Falvey, 727 S.W.2d 459, 461 (Mo.App. 1987). Even though her separate property may have been transmuted into marital property, such does not "preclude the trial court from considering the premarital contribution in dividing the marital property." Gremaud v. Gremaud, 860 S.W.2d 354, 357 (Mo.App. 1993).

The application of the remaining statutory factors do not convince us that the trial court abused its discretion in the division of the marital property, other than Wife's contribution of funds from her inheritance.

Wife's third point also alleges error regarding the September judgment. Wife claims the final judgment was "not proper" because the trial court excessively deviated from the presumed child support amount and imputed gift income to Wife from parents. The trial court did not deviate from the presumed child-support amount calculated on the court's own Form 14. Therefore, the ruling to be considered is whether the court erred in including the financial support from parents in Wife's monthly gross income.

The trial court found that Wife has additional income from the "Lemon trust" and has received a relatively stable additional income from her parents of approximately $20,000 annually during the marriage. Wife asserts that the trial court erred when it averaged an additional income of $1,666 per month to Wife in calculating the amount of child support. Wife argues that the court abused its discretion by not applying Rule 88.01 in its characterization of gross income. Quoting from the Directions for Form 14, Wife asserts that because the guidelines do not mention gift money from a third party, it was error to consider gift money in gross income. This argument is not conclusive because the Directions for "Line 1: Gross Income" begin with the language that gross income "includes, but is not limited to [listed sources]". The list therefore, is neither exhaustive nor exclusive.

Wife's mother testified at the trial held on April 10, 1998, that three times she and her husband had gifted Wife and her family $20,000 to help them buy a home or to establish a "nest egg." The gifts were made in 1993, 1995, and 1996. She also testified that since the parties had separated in December, 1996, she and her husband had provided Wife financial assistance "by the month" to pay rent, provide "extra money" to send the children to school, to buy food, and pay attorneys' fees. The monthly amounts have averaged $2,000 during the seventeen months the parties had been separated. Wife's father testified that he and his wife were "helping Mary and the children," and that he intended to continue "[a]s long as [he is] working and able to do so."

Child support (and maintenance) awards require consideration of current economic circumstances, Morgan v. Ackerman, 964 S.W.2d 865, 869 (Mo.App. 1998), and the financial resources of the parents. Section 452.340.1(2). The term "gross income" is not defined by the rule or accompanying form, but the Directions for Completion of Form 14 provide guidance as what should be included as gross income. Buckner v. Jordan, 952 S.W.2d 710, 711 (Mo.banc 1997). A "relevant factor" which may justify deviation from the presumptive child support amount is "the financial resources and needs of the parents." Rule 88.01(b). Id. at 712.

The trial court should consider not only a parent's earnings for services rendered, but rather all resources available to him or her. In re Marriage of Chorum, 959 S.W.2d 900, 905 (Mo.App. 1997). Section 452.340.1. No resource available to a...

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