Noble v. Noble

Citation456 S.W.3d 120
Decision Date10 March 2015
Docket NumberWD 77476
PartiesRichard W. Noble, Respondent, v. Linda L. Noble, Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)

456 S.W.3d 120

Richard W. Noble, Respondent
Linda L. Noble, Appellant.

WD 77476

Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.

OPINION FILED: March 10, 2015

Scott L. Campbell, Platte City, MO, for Respondent Richard W. Noble.

Robert H. Shaw, Platte City, MO, for Respondents Arn, LLC, et al.

Louis J. Wade, Kansas City, MO, for Appellant Linda L. Noble.

Before Division Two: Anthony Rex Gabbert, Presiding Judge, and Joseph M. Ellis and Karen King Mitchell, Judges


Karen King Mitchell, Judge

Linda L. Noble (Wife) appeals the trial court's judgment, which quashed several garnishments Wife sought in aid of executing a monetary judgment against Richard W. Noble (Husband) and awarded Husband attorney's fees in the amount of $2,500. Because the trial court's basis for granting the motion to quash was erroneous and there is no alternative basis for affirming, we reverse its ruling as to both the motion to quash and the award of attorney's fees.

456 S.W.3d 123

Factual and Procedural Background

On July 2, 2010, the trial court issued its judgment dissolving the marriage between Husband and Wife. In its judgment, the court denied Wife's request for maintenance on the basis that Wife was “capable of supporting herself through ... employment.” In its recitals, the court stated: “[Wife] should not be awarded maintenance as she is not entitled to same and ... [Husband] will receive and be credited with the maintenance he has paid to [Wife] during the pendency of this action.”1 In the decretal portion of the judgment, the court ordered “[t]hat Judgment is granted in favor of [Wife] and against [Husband] in the sum of $63,807 and execution on said Judgment shall be stayed for 60 days.” The $63,807 figure was reached by combining a $36,307 equalization payment with a $27,500 payment compensating Wife for her share of marital property used by Husband.

Wife appealed the judgment to this court, arguing—among other things—that the court erred in not awarding her maintenance. We rejected Wife's claim and affirmed the dissolution judgment in a per curiam order with an accompanying memorandum. Noble v. Noble, 362 S.W.3d 70 (Mo.App.W.D.2012).

On February 7, 2013, Wife issued a demand letter to Husband, seeking payment of the $63,807 judgment, less $6,699.54 that Husband had paid on the home mortgage after the dissolution, which the parties agreed would operate as a credit against the judgment amount. Wife's demand also sought interest on the remaining balance of $57,107.46 in the amount of $14.08 per day (the equivalent of 9 percent per annum on $57,107.46) beginning July 2, 2010.2

Husband refused Wife's demand, arguing that the judgment provided him with a credit for the $46,000 he had paid in pre-trial maintenance and that he had already paid the balance remaining from the $63,807 amount after factoring in the mortgage payment and pre-trial maintenance credits.3

As a result of the dispute, Wife filed a “Motion to Determine Amount Due Under the Court's ‘Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage,’ to Enforce Payment of Said Amount, and for Attorney's Fees.” Wife laid out the dispute regarding the amount due under the judgment and suggested

456 S.W.3d 124

that Husband's assertion that he was entitled to a credit for pre-trial maintenance was inaccurate because the judgment denied Husband's motion to terminate or modify temporary pre-trial maintenance. Wife relied upon an email from the trial court to the attorneys before the dissolution judgment was entered, wherein the court outlined the anticipated judgment and stated: “No return of any pretrial Maintenance.” Wife also argued that if the court had intended to award Husband a credit, it would have done so in the decretal portion of the judgment, which it did not do.

Husband responded to Wife's motion, arguing that Wife's motion was nothing more than an attempt to modify the dissolution judgment denying maintenance to Wife. Husband argued that the court's determination that Wife was not entitled to any maintenance was directed at both pre-trial and future maintenance. Based upon this interpretation, coupled with Wife's challenge on appeal to the denial of maintenance, Husband argued that this issue had been finally settled.

The court held a hearing on Wife's motion, and at that hearing, Husband argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on Wife's motion.4 Husband's theory was that ruling on Wife's motion would constitute an “advisory opinion,” which the court was not permitted to make. Though not clear from the record, it seems that the basis for Husband's argument was that Wife had not sought execution on the judgment at the time she filed her Motion to Determine and, therefore, any ruling by the court on the motion would be premature.

Apparently in response, following the hearing, Wife filed eighteen writs of execution and two motions for charging orders, seeking to garnish Husband's wages and other property in the hands of various business entities she believed him to be involved with. Each of the garnishments claimed an unpaid amount due of $63,807. The record does not reflect any ruling by the trial court on the motions for charging orders. Of the eighteen garnishments filed, only one was purportedly served; the remaining seventeen were either returned non-est or withdrawn. As to the single garnishment served, the registered agent filed an answer to the accompanying interrogatories indicating that it could “find no record of the entity being listed with the state authority.”

After the writs of execution were issued, eight of the garnishees5 jointly filed a “Petition to Stay, Quash or Hold in Abeyance [Wife's] Requests for Execution or Garnishments ... Pending the Court's Ruling on [Wife's] Motion to Determine Amount Due Under the Court's ‘Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage,’ to Enforce Payment of Said Amount, and for Attorney's Fees.”6 Garnishees argued that there could be no execution because the underlying judgment was uncertain, as evidenced by Wife's pending Motion to Determine. Garnishees further argued that Wife improperly sought property interests that could be obtained only through charging orders and not garnishment proceedings,

456 S.W.3d 125

and Wife's motions for charging orders had not yet been ruled.7

Husband then filed a “Motion to Stay, Quash or Hold in Abeyance [Wife's] Requests for Execution or Garnishments ... for Failure [to] State and not Based on the Actual Amount of any Judgment or Sum Owed [Wife] by [Husband] and for Attorney's Fees. (Emphasis in original.) Husband challenged eleven of the writs of garnishment, arguing that the underlying judgment had already been satisfied.8 Unlike Garnishees, Husband argued that

the Court's decision as to the Dissolution of Marriage [wa]s quite clear and certain and that he owe[d] [Wife] $9,642.17 which represent[ed] the Court's award of $63,807.00 less the credit awarded [Husband] for temporary maintenance paid [Wife] of $46,000.00 and the post dissolution house payments he made at [Wife's] request of $8,193.83.[ 9 ]

(Emphasis added.) Husband further argued that the division of assets, itself, supported his claim that he was entitled to a credit for pre-trial maintenance; he claimed that the credit was necessary to equalize the marital assets. Husband also inexplicably claimed that “the debt for which [Wife] has obtained Writs of Garnishment is actively in dispute and not certain.10 (Emphasis added.)

Thereafter, the court held a hearing on Garnishees' Petition and Husband's Motion to Quash. As part of the hearing, Wife also sought a ruling on her Motion to Determine the amount due under the judgment of dissolution. Wife presented six exhibits: the dissolution judgment, a copy of § 408.040,11 Wife's calculation of the amount then owed with interest, specific pages of the dissolution judgment, an email from the court to the parties regarding the drafting of the dissolution judgment,12 and a table reflecting the division

456 S.W.3d 126

of assets from the dissolution. Husband objected to the email exhibit, arguing that it constituted hearsay and improper parol evidence. Wife alternatively argued that the court could take judicial notice, as the email was sent from the court to the parties. The court did not rule on Husband's objection. Both Husband and Garnishees offered argument, and Garnishees requested an award of attorney's fees in the amount of $2,500.

Throughout the hearing, the court repeatedly expressed concern over the clarity of the judgment and a reluctance to interpret the judgment in order to clarify. The court stated: “You're asking me to tell you what [the judgment] means and I don't believe I have the authority to do that.” The court further indicated: “I think that the judgment is vague. I think that I can interpret it either way and be upheld on the—at the Court of Appeals except that I don't have the authority to do that....” The court then issued its judgment, purportedly sustaining Husband's motion and Garnishees' motion,13 quashing the...

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1 cases
  • Noble v. Noble
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Missouri
    • 10 Marzo 2015
    ...456 S.W.3d 120Richard W. Noble, Respondentv.Linda L. Noble, Appellant.WD 77476Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.OPINION FILED: March 10, 2015Scott L. Campbell, Platte City, MO, for Respondent Richard W. Noble.Robert H. Shaw, Platte City, MO, for Respondents Arn, LLC, et al.Louis J......

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