Sporleder v. Sporleder

Citation655 S.W.3d 1
Decision Date25 October 2022
Docket NumberWD 85008
Parties Michelle Lynn SPORLEDER, Respondent, v. Patrick Gregory SPORLEDER, Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)

Gary L. Stamper, Columbia, Missouri, for respondent.

Edward C. Clausen, Jefferson City, Missouri, for appellant.

Division One: W. Douglas Thomson, Presiding Judge, Alok Ahuja, Judge and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Judge

W. DOUGLAS THOMSON, JUDGE

Patrick Gregory Sporleder ("Husband") appeals from the judgment of dissolution ("Judgment") of his marriage to Michelle Lynn Sporleder ("Wife"), entered in the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri ("trial court"). Husband raises six points on appeal, claiming the trial court erred in (1) "awarding Wife's membership interest in Atkes Properties LLC [(the LLC)] to Husband," (2) "crediting to Wife unreimbursed marital expenses in the amount of -$44,431.50," (3) awarding Husband $160,000 in bonus income from "bonus(es) 1st, 2nd, 3rd quarter with 4th quarter "true up[,]" " (4) "finding that each parties’ household goods and personal property were separate property with no value," (5) "awarding half of the MFS Heritage Trust SEP retirement assets [(MFS Heritage Trust assets)] to Wife," and (6) "finding that the 2009 BMW was gifted to the parties’ son on his 16th birthday and the 2012 VW GTI was gifted to the parties’ daughter on her 16th birthday[.]" We affirm in part, and reverse and remand in part.

Factual and Procedural Background1

Husband and Wife were married on May 18, 1991. The parties had four children together, all emancipated at the time of trial. In June of 2020 the parties separated, and Wife filed her Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on June 17, 2020, with Husband timely filing his Answer and Counter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Trial was held on July 23, 2021, and the following evidence was adduced.

Husband is a family practitioner for Capital Regional Medical Center ("Capital Regional"), and Wife is in product management at IBM Watson Health. In June of 2004, the parties formed the aforementioned LLC for the purpose of "[m]aintaining and leasing property for rental purposes." The LLC owns two buildings, with Husband operating his practice out of one of the buildings. The LLC was owned entirely by the parties, with Wife having a 60% ownership interest and Husband a 40% interest. The LLC operated under an operating agreement.

As part of his employment, Husband has a contract with Capital Regional and is compensated based on a relative value unit ("RVU") mechanism. This consists of a base salary with bonuses in the form of RVU incentives, and based on the RVUs, Husband receives a quarterly compensation package "with a percent withheld that then is trued up at the end of the contract year, which is the end of April[,]" and payment is made in May. During the marriage, this compensation was one source of income for the family. Wife is familiar with the average amount and timing of Husband's bonuses due to their history of filing joint income tax returns, and she stated Husband makes between $150,000 to $170,000 in bonuses each year.

The parties also had a joint checking account to which they both contributed during the marriage, but following the parties’ separation Husband stopped contributing to this account. As a result, Wife was left solely responsible for all activity in the account and for paying certain marital expenses and extensive pre-separation marital debt. Husband eventually began assisting with the house payments on the marital home but conditioned such upon the marital home being listed for sale. To pay expenses, Wife used marital funds from the joint account, incurred credit card debt, and borrowed from a child. Wife submitted a summary of these various "unreimbursed marital expenses" that excluded her personal expenses but included recurring payments, along with supporting documentation.

Husband's girlfriend began living with him soon after the separation. Husband testified she reimbursed him in cash for some expenses.

On February 28, 2021, Husband and Wife entered into a stipulation ("Stipulation") in which they agreed on the value of certain assets and liabilities for use at trial on March 11, 2021. This trial date was ultimately continued to July, 2021 and the Stipulation was utilized to value certain assets at the July trial. Listed within the Stipulation was the MFS Heritage Trust retirement asset in Husband's name with a stipulated value of $417,252.39.

Both Husband and Wife provided multiple documents that listed household goods and personal property as part of the marital estate, but the parties disputed the value of several of these items. In Wife's Statement of Property and Debt, she listed a 2009 BMW and a 2012 VW GTI as being gifted to two of the children. Husband included these cars as part of the marital estate in his Statement of Property and Liabilities. The children use their respective cars almost exclusively. The parties’ names are on the titles.

On August 19, 2021, the trial court entered its Judgment. The trial court awarded the LLC entirely to Husband, noted "a historical distaste of leaving marital property vested in the parties as tenants in common after dissolution absent a compelling reason[,]" and ultimately "[found] no compelling reason to leave [the LLC] vested jointly in the parties after dissolution." Additionally, the trial court awarded Wife "unreimburse[d] marital expenses" as a debt owed to her from Husband in the amount of $44,431.50. The trial court found "[Husband] engaged in marital misconduct which substantially shifted additional burdens upon [Wife] as his financial partner."

Husband was also credited $160,000 in "Bonus(es) 1st, 2nd, 3rd quarter with 4th quarter ‘True-up’[.]" With respect to the parties’ household goods and personal property, the trial court awarded the parties the items in their possession and adopted Wife's valuation of those items, referring to "Court's Exhibit No. 2" in doing so. However, Court's Exhibit No. 2 listed no value with respect to these items. In its division of the retirement accounts, the trial court split the MFS Heritage Trust assets equally between the parties using its value listed in the Stipulation. This retirement account was titled in Husband's name alone. Lastly, the trial court did not include the 2009 BMW nor the 2012 VW GTI in its division of marital property, instead finding the BMW and VW were gifted to the parties’ son and daughter on their sixteenth birthdays, respectively, and awarding said assets to said children.

Husband timely filed a post-trial motion pursuant to Rules 75.01 and 78 ("post-trial motion"), which the trial court denied.2 Husband now appeals. Additional facts will be provided as necessary, below.

Standard of Review

"In a dissolution case, this Court will affirm the trial court's decision unless it is not supported by substantial evidence, it is against the weight of the evidence, or 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 correct, and the party challenging the division bears the burden of overcoming the presumption.’ " Id. at 905 (quoting Souci v. Souci , 284 S.W.3d 749, 755 (Mo. App. S.D. 2009) ). "[T]he trial court is vested with broad discretion in classifying, valuing, and dividing marital property in a dissolution proceeding, and an appellate court will interfere with the trial court's decision only if it constitutes an abuse of discretion." S.M.S. v. J.B.S. , 588 S.W.3d 473, 485 (Mo. App. E.D. 2019) (citations omitted). " ‘The trial court abuses its discretion only when its ruling is "clearly against the logic of the circumstances and is so arbitrary and unreasonable as to shock one's sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration." " Steele , 423 S.W.3d at 904 (quoting Souci , 284 S.W.3d at 754 ). "Moreover, if reasonable persons can differ about the propriety of the trial court's decision, then it cannot be said the trial court abused its discretion." S.M.S. , 588 S.W.3d at 485 (citing Torrey v. Torrey , 333 S.W.3d 34, 36 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010) ). "The division of marital property need not be equal, but must only be fair and equitable given the circumstances of the case." Nelson v. Nelson , 25 S.W.3d 511, 517 (Mo. App. W.D. 2000) (citing Finnical v. Finnical , 992 S.W.2d 337, 343 (Mo. App. 1999) and Gendron v. Gendron , 996 S.W.2d 668, 673 (Mo. App. 1999) ).

We note that "in reviewing a court-tried dissolution case, our Court is predominately concerned with the correctness of the trial court's ruling rather than the route taken to reach it." S.M.S. , 588 S.W.3d at 485 (citing McQueen v. Gadberry , 507 S.W.3d 127, 132, 138 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016) ). As such, " we are obliged to affirm if we determine that the trial court reached the correct result, regardless of whether the trial court's proffered reasons are wrong or insufficient.’ " Id. (quoting McQueen , 507 S.W.3d at 132, 138 ). We address Husband's six points on appeal in order, but discuss Points II, III, and IV together as they suffer from the same fatal defect.

Point I

In his first point on appeal, Husband argues the trial court "erroneously declared and applied the law" when it awarded Wife's membership interest in the LLC to Husband because such an award "violated [the LLC] operating agreement and § 347.081 RSMO [ ] resulting in an inequitable division of the marital estate in violation of § 452.330 RSMO."3 We disagree.

"In interpreting an LLC's operating agreement, we apply the ordinary rules of contract law." Chadwick v. Huntoon , 634 S.W.3d 832, 839 (Mo. App. S.D. 2021) (citation omitted). We are to "ascertain the intent of the parties and give effect to that intent." Id. (citation omitted). However, "[w]e rely on the plain and ordinary meaning...

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  • State v. Antle
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 28 d2 Março d2 2023
    ... ... circuit courts to be cautious in adopting orders proposed by ... a litigant without modification. See , e.g. , ... Sporleder v. Sporleder , 655 S.W.3d 1, 15 n.16 (Mo ... App. W.D. 2022); Patterson v. State , 576 S.W.3d 240, ... 247-48 (Mo. App. W.D. 2019) ... ...

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