Jennings v. Jennings

Citation327 S.W.3d 21
Decision Date07 December 2010
Docket NumberNo. ED 93601.,ED 93601.
PartiesEllen F. JENNINGS, Respondent,v.Luther E. JENNINGS, Appellant.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Bruce E. McGuire, Bowling Green, MO, for Appellant.Malaine P. Hagermeier, Bowling Green, MO, for Respondent.Before ROY L. RICHTER, C.J., CLIFFORD H. AHRENS, J., and GLENN A. NORTON, J.

OPINION

GLENN A. NORTON, Judge.

Luther E. Jennings (Husband) appeals the judgment dissolving his marriage to Ellen F. Jennings (Wife). We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

The trial court entered judgment dissolving the marriage of Husband and Wife. The court divided marital property and awarded Wife the marital residence and a portion of the value of a Ford Mustang as her separate property. Proceeds from the sale of Wife's 202 acre farm, which she owned before the marriage, were used to pay off the loan on the marital residence. In addition, the parties used a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Wife's farm to purchase a Chevrolet Impala, which was ultimately traded in as a $10,000.00 down payment on the Ford Mustang. Husband now appeals the trial court's judgment.

II. DISCUSSION
A. Standard of Review

Each of Husband's three points on appeal concern allegations of error in the trial court's division of property. In a dissolution case, we will affirm the trial court's judgment unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law. Workman v. Workman, 293 S.W.3d 89, 95 (Mo.App. E.D.2009).

When reviewing the trial court's division of property, we give deference to the trial court, which has extensive discretion. Id. at 95. We will not reverse a trial court's determination in this regard unless the division of property is so heavily and unduly weighted in favor of one party as to amount to an abuse of discretion. Id. “It is not per se an abuse of discretion if the trial court awards one party a considerably higher percentage of the marital property than it awarded the other party.” Id. at 96.

B. Division of Property was not Abuse of Discretion

In point one on appeal, Husband claims the trial court improperly applied the source of funds rule and based upon this theory mischaracterized the marital residence and a portion of the value of the 2006 Ford Mustang (“the vehicle”) owned by the parties as Wife's separate property. The source of funds theory dictates that the character of property will be determined by the source of funds financing the purchase. Hoffmann v. Hoffmann, 676 S.W.2d 817, 824 (Mo. banc 1984). According to Husband, the marital residence and the vehicle were clearly jointly titled property purchased by the parties during the marriage with marital funds. Point two on appeal makes essentially the same claim regarding the improper classification of the residence and the vehicle as separate property based upon the fact that even assuming the residence and the vehicle were Wife's separate property initially, they were transmuted into joint assets by her actions.

Husband's argument concerning the characterization of the residence and the vehicle as Wife's separate property may have some merit. Wife used both the rental income and the sale proceeds from the 202 acre farm she owned prior to the marriage to contribute to the purchase of the marital residence and the vehicle. However, the residence and the vehicle were ultimately titled in both parties' names, and the residence was also partially paid for with marital funds. Based on these facts, it appears as though the trial court's classification of the residence and the vehicle as Wife's separate property may have been erroneous. “Regardless, error in classifying property as marital or non-marital does not require reversal unless it materially affects the merits of the action.” Patterson v. Patterson, 207 S.W.3d 179, 189 (Mo.App. S.D.2006). We will reverse for such error only if it causes the division of property to be so unduly weighted in favor of one party to amount to an abuse of discretion. Id.

Assuming the marital residence and the portion of the value of the vehicle should have been classified as marital property, we consider whether the division of property was so unduly weighted in favor of one party to amount to an abuse of discretion. In this case, Wife did ultimately receive a significantly greater percentage of the marital property than Husband when including the marital residence and the portion of the value of the vehicle. However, if the trial court awards one party a significantly higher percentage of marital property, it is not an abuse of discretion per se. Workman, 293 S.W.3d at 96. Instead, the division of property must only be fair and equitable given the particular circumstances of the case. Id. Pursuant to section 452.330.1 RSMo 2000, the trial court must consider “all relevant factors” when dividing marital property and debt, including the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the property. Disparity in the division of marital property is appropriate if any of the relevant factors justify the unequal division. Workman, 293 S.W.3d at 96.

In this case, Wife's contribution to the acquisition of the marital residence and the vehicle, as well as other marital property justified the disparity in the division of property. Wife was awarded the full value of the marital residence, as well as a portion of the value of the vehicle, among other marital property. It is undisputed that Wife used a portion of the proceeds from the sale of her 202 acre farm, which was acquired before the marriage, to pay off the mortgage on the marital residence. At the time the outstanding balance of the loan was approximately $104,000.00. In addition, a...

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6 cases
  • Sporleder v. Sporleder
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • October 25, 2022
    ...it erroneously declares or applies the law." Steele v. Steele , 423 S.W.3d 898, 904 (Mo. App. S.D. 2014) (citing Jennings v. Jennings , 327 S.W.3d 21, 23 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010) ). Concerning the specific issue of property division within a dissolution, such a division " ‘is presumed to be cor......
  • Copling v. Gao, ED 99554.
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • July 7, 2014
    ...evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law.” Jennings v. Jennings, 327 S.W.3d 21, 23 (Mo.App.E.D.2010). “We will not retry the case, but rather, we accept as true the evidence and reasonable inferences therefrom in the lig......
  • French v. French
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • April 24, 2012
    ...evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law. Jennings v. Jennings, 327 S.W.3d 21, 23 (Mo.App. E.D.2010). “We do not retry the case, rather we accept as true the [365 S.W.3d 291]evidence and reasonable inferences therefrom i......
  • Steele v. Steele, SD 32326.
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • March 11, 2014
    ...by substantial evidence, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law. Jennings v. Jennings, 327 S.W.3d 21, 23 (Mo.App.E.D.2010). “In assessing the sufficiency of the evidence, we examine the evidence and the reasonable inferences derived therefrom......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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