Marriage of Wells, In re, No. 92SC113

Docket NºNo. 92SC113
Citation850 P.2d 694
Case DateApril 12, 1993
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

Page 694

850 P.2d 694
In re the MARRIAGE OF: Judith A. WELLS, Petitioner,
and
Curtis W. Wells, Respondent.
No. 92SC113.
Supreme Court of Colorado,
En Banc.
April 12, 1993.

Bonnie M.J. Schriner, Denver, for petitioner.

Lichtenfels, Pansing & Miller, P.C., J. Reid Lichtenfels, Susan H. Borgos, Denver, for respondent.

Justice ERICKSON delivered the Opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to review In re Marriage of Wells, 833 P.2d 797 (Colo.App.1991). The court of appeals reversed the trial court's supplemental property division

Page 695

order which awarded the petitioner, Judith Wells (Wife), her Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) benefits and canceled a $7,500 note it had previously ordered the respondent, Curtis Wells (Husband), to pay to the Wife. The issue in this case is whether, following remand to redistribute marital property, the trial court may consider changed circumstances of the wife and husband between the date of the dissolution decree and the date of the post-decree hearing to redistribute the marital property in entering a supplemental order dividing marital property. The answer to this question is yes, and we therefore reverse and remand the case to the court of appeals with directions to reinstate the trial court's supplemental property division order.
I

The twenty-four year marriage of the parties ended with a decree of dissolution of marriage on February 13, 1987. On July 7, 1987, the trial court held a permanent orders hearing and entered an order dividing the marital property of the couple. In making the property division, the trial court considered only that portion of the Wife's PERA account representing her contributions to the plan. Based on this valuation, the trial court awarded the Wife her PERA benefits. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed the trial court's order and remanded for redetermination in light of our decision in In re Marriage of Grubb, 745 P.2d 661 (Colo.1987). 1

On remand, the trial court addressed the meaning of section 14-10-113(1)(c), 6B C.R.S. (1987), which provides that the court is to consider, as a relevant factor in dividing marital property, the "economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective." The trial court interpreted the phrase to mean that it could accept and consider evidence relating to the changed circumstances of the parties during the period of time between the original property division order and the supplemental property division order. 2 Based on the testimony relating to the parties' changed economic circumstances, the trial court awarded the Wife her PERA benefits and canceled a $7,500 note it had previously ordered the Husband to pay to the Wife.

The Husband appealed the trial court's supplemental property division order to the court of appeals. He contended that the trial court erred in considering the changed economic circumstances of the parties. The Husband claimed that the trial court was allowed to consider the economic circumstances only as they existed at the time of the original property division order. The court of appeals agreed with the Husband, holding "that the disposition of property must be based upon the conditions that exist as of the date of the decree, even if it is not determined or implemented until a later date." Wells, 833 P.2d at 799.

Page 696

We hold that section 14-10-113(1)(c) requires a trial court to consider the economic circumstances of the respective spouses at the time any hearing relating to the division of marital property is held, including a hearing following a remand for the purpose of dividing the property between the parties.
II

The Husband contends that the trial court erred in interpreting the language of section 14-10-113(1)(c) to permit consideration of the changed economic circumstances of the parties at the time of the hearing on remand. The Husband claims that the phrase "at the time the division of property is to become effective" contained in section 14-10-113(1)(c) allows a trial court to address the economic circumstances of the parties only as of the date of the original property division hearing, and prohibits a trial court from considering the changed economic circumstances of the parties at a subsequent permanent orders hearing held in accordance with an order of remand from an appellate court. We disagree.

A

In 1971, Colorado adopted the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act, sections 14-10-101 to -133, 6B C.R.S. (1987 & 1992 Supp.), substantially based on the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (Uniform Act) as approved by the National Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1970. 3 Section 14-10-113, 6B C.R.S. (1987), of the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act is entitled "Disposition of Property." 4 Section 14-10-113 is adapted from section 307 of the Uniform Act, although the two sections are not identical. 5 In this case, because the two sections are not identical, we look to general rules governing statutory interpretation, as well as to other jurisdictions that have adopted the Uniform Act. See In re Marriage of Cargill, 843 P.2d 1335, 1338 (Colo.1993) (stating that while uniform statutes should be construed to bring uniformity to the law in the various states, there are other factors to consider including the intent of the General Assembly).

B

The Husband claims that, in this case, the court of appeals remand order is merely a correction of an error that occurred at the time the decree was initially entered, and that the trial court therefore erred in considering additional evidence relating to the parties changed economic circumstances. The husband, however, concedes that the trial court properly considered the economic circumstances of each spouse up

Page 697

to July 7, 1987. 6 In essence, the Husband claims that a trial court may only consider the economic circumstances of the parties up to the time it first addresses and rules on the question of the equitable distribution of property. Once that initial order is entered, he claims, any subsequent hearings on the issue are merely corrections of errors committed by the trial court in the first proceeding. We disagree with the husband's interpretation of the statutory language.

The phrase "economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective" in section 14-10-113(1)(c) implies that an order of the trial court is necessary to effectuate the equitable division of the property. Final orders and judgments of trial courts are fully effective when they are entered, subject only to the possibility that they may be modified or reversed on the court's own motion, on the motion of the parties, or by an order of an appellate court. See In re Marriage of Jones, 627 P.2d 248, 253 (Colo.1981) (holding that a property division that has become final is not subject to modification unless the court finds the existence of conditions that justify the reopening of the judgment); In re Marriage of Scheuerman, 42 Colo.App. 206, 207-08, 591 P.2d 1044, 1046 (1979) (same); cf. Davidson Chevrolet, Inc. v. City & County of Denver, 138 Colo. 171, 175, 330 P.2d 1116, 1118 (1958) (stating that even irregular and erroneous judgments retain their force and have effect until modified by the trial court, until vacated pursuant to new trial procedures, or until reversed by an appellate court in review proceedings).

In this case, the trial court issued a property division order allocating the property between the parties on July 7, 1987. The July 7 property division order was fully effective until the court of appeals reversed the order on appeal because the trial court did not properly value the Wife's PERA benefits. The court of appeals directed the trial court on remand to redistribute the parties' marital property based on a new valuation of the Wife's PERA benefits, which the trial court did in its supplemental property division order of June 19, 1990. The June 19 order was also fully effective at the time it was entered. However, because of the limited nature of the June 19 order, both property division orders are necessary, and therefore effective for determining the rights of each spouse to the marital property. Each order standing alone is ineffectual to give full force and effect to the trial court's allocation of the marital property. The trial court properly took evidence relating to the economic circumstances of each spouse at both hearings because on both occasions the order the trial court entered effectuated a division of marital property.

Property division hearings conducted pursuant to section 14-10-113 are equitable in nature and trial courts are authorized to consider evidence of the parties' changed economic circumstances in arriving at a division of property. Courts sitting in equity are not required to ignore the adverse circumstances of the parties lawfully before them and trial courts are vested

Page 698

with broad discretion to fashion an equitable division of the parties' property in a dissolution proceeding. In re Marriage of Gallo, 752 P.2d 47, 54 (Colo.1988). In our view, the General Assembly intended to promote the equitable distribution of property among the parties by addressing and providing for the parties' present and continuing needs without having to resort to an award of maintenance. See Jones, 627 P.2d at 252-53 (stating that a highly relevant factor to be considered by the court in effecting a just division of marital property is the extent to which the division will promote the objective of providing for each party's financial needs without maintenance).
C

Our interpretation of section 14-10-113(1)(c) is also consistent with other jurisdictions that have interpreted the Uniform Act phrase "economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective." See In re Marriage of Fuggiti, 130 Ill.App.3d 190, 85 Ill.Dec. 658, 474 N.E.2d 386 (1985); In re...

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39 practice notes
  • Marriage of McElroy, In re, No. 94CA0957
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • August 10, 1995
    ...trial court lacked the authority to redistribute the pension benefit as it existed in the form of the SSB. See In re Marriage of Wells, 850 P.2d 694 Since the trial court has already determined that the SSB is marital property and found that it would have awarded 25% of the net benefit to w......
  • Custody of C.C.R.S., In re, No. 92CA1142
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • November 18, 1993
    ...interpretation must be applied in an effort to determine and effectuate the intent of the General Assembly. In re Marriage of Wells, 850 P.2d 694 The standing of non-parents to litigate claims and to be awarded custody of children against parental interests was well established in Colorado ......
  • Marriage of Hunt, In re, Nos. 93SC565
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • December 18, 1995
    ...of this article among those states which enact it." We have previously recognized this legislative mandate. In re Marriage of Wells, 850 P.2d 694 (Colo.1993). Statutes analogous to the UDMA have been codified by seven other states. Of these seven states, four have recognized that a trial co......
  • Cardona v. Castro, No. 09CA1996.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • December 9, 2010
    ...should reconsider the property division based on the parties' economic circumstances existing on remand. See In re Marriage of Wells, 850 P.2d 694, 697 (Colo.1993); In re Marriage of Powell, 220 P.3d 952, 961 (Colo.App.2009). Although we have remanded for reconsideration of the property div......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • Marriage of McElroy, In re, No. 94CA0957
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • August 10, 1995
    ...trial court lacked the authority to redistribute the pension benefit as it existed in the form of the SSB. See In re Marriage of Wells, 850 P.2d 694 Since the trial court has already determined that the SSB is marital property and found that it would have awarded 25% of the net benefit to w......
  • Custody of C.C.R.S., In re, No. 92CA1142
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • November 18, 1993
    ...interpretation must be applied in an effort to determine and effectuate the intent of the General Assembly. In re Marriage of Wells, 850 P.2d 694 The standing of non-parents to litigate claims and to be awarded custody of children against parental interests was well established in Colorado ......
  • Marriage of Hunt, In re, Nos. 93SC565
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • December 18, 1995
    ...of this article among those states which enact it." We have previously recognized this legislative mandate. In re Marriage of Wells, 850 P.2d 694 (Colo.1993). Statutes analogous to the UDMA have been codified by seven other states. Of these seven states, four have recognized that a trial co......
  • Cardona v. Castro, No. 09CA1996.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • December 9, 2010
    ...should reconsider the property division based on the parties' economic circumstances existing on remand. See In re Marriage of Wells, 850 P.2d 694, 697 (Colo.1993); In re Marriage of Powell, 220 P.3d 952, 961 (Colo.App.2009). Although we have remanded for reconsideration of the property div......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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