Wilson v. Murawski, ED 109202

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtPhilip M. Hess, Presiding Judge
Citation634 S.W.3d 678
Parties Mary E. WILSON, Respondent, v. Thomas E. MURAWSKI, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. ED 109202,ED 109202
Decision Date19 October 2021

634 S.W.3d 678

Mary E. WILSON, Respondent,
v.
Thomas E. MURAWSKI, Appellant.

No. ED 109202

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, DIVISION THREE.

Filed: October 19, 2021


FOR APPELLANT: Anthony M. Pezzani, Engelmeyer & Pezzani, LLC, 13321 North Outer Forty Road, Suite 300, Chesterfield, Missouri 63017.

FOR RESPONDENT: Allison S. Lee, Alan E. Freed, Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C., 165 North Meramec Avenue, Suit 110, Clayton, MO 63105.

Philip M. Hess, Presiding Judge

634 S.W.3d 683

Introduction

Thomas Murawski ("Husband" or "Father") appeals the trial court's judgment dissolving his marriage with Mary Wilson ("Wife" or "Mother").

Husband raises sixteen points on appeal. In Point I, Husband argues the judgment's division of assets and debts failed to account for the parties’ need to amend their 2017 tax return. In Point II, Husband argues the trial court's monthly maintenance award to Wife was excessive. In Point III, Husband argues the trial court incorrectly calculated Wife's net income. In Point IV, Husband argues the trial court incorrectly calculated his income. In Point V, Husband argues the trial court erred in its division of child custody. In Point VI, Husband argues the trial court's child support award was improper. In Point VII, Husband argues the trial court's child support award includes college education expenses he cannot afford. In Point VIII, Husband argues the trial court incorrectly found he owes $5,600 in retroactive child support. In Point IX, Husband argues he is entitled to a credit for overpayment of child support. In Point X, Husband argues the trial court incorrectly found two bank accounts were not marital property. In Point XI, Husband argues Wife squandered and improperly dissipated support payments. In Point XII, Husband argues the trial court's division of assets improperly favored Wife. In Point XIII, Husband argues the trial court incorrectly calculated the value of his retirement accounts. In Point XIV, Husband argues the trial court incorrectly calculated the value of the parties’ 2007 GMC Yukon. In Point XV, Husband argues the trial court erred by assigning him a portion of Wife's credit card debt. In Point XVI, Husband argues the trial court's asset equalization judgment must be recalculated given the errors alleged on appeal.

We affirm in part and reverse in part.

Factual and Procedural Background

The parties married in 2002. Four children were born of the marriage. Husband is an executive at an HVAC company and earns approximately $337,000 per year. The parties stipulated Wife earns $56,000 per year. Husband and Wife separated in October 2017. Wife filed for dissolution on June 19, 2018. On February 1, 2019, the parties entered a pendente lite judgment ("PDL") providing Husband would pay $8,000 per month for maintenance and child support pending the trial court's final judgment.

The parties tried their case over five days from October 8, 2019 through January 9, 2020. The trial court entered its dissolution judgment on June 3, 2020. The court granted the parties joint legal and physical custody of the children and ordered Husband to pay $5,000 in maintenance and $2,342 in child support per month. The judgment provided the three youngest children would stay with Father six of every fourteen overnights. The judgment further provided the parties’ oldest child would stay with Father on an informal, as-agreed schedule. Husband appeals, challenging the trial court's findings regarding the parties’ income and debt, property valuation, division of separate and marital property, child custody arrangement, child support, and maintenance orders. Additional factual and procedural history will be provided below as necessary to address Husband's claims.

Standard of Review

Dissolution Judgments

We review marriage dissolutions under the standard set forth in

634 S.W.3d 684

Murphy v. Carron , 536 S.W.2d 30 (Mo. banc 1976). See Sulkin v. Sulkin , 619 S.W.3d 155, 159 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021). Under Murphy , "a dissolution judgment will be affirmed unless it is not supported by substantial evidence, it is against the weight of the evidence, it erroneously declares the law, or it erroneously applies the law." Id. (citing Alabach v. Alabach , 478 S.W.3d 511, 513 (Mo. App. E.D. 2015) ). We will not review the trial court's decisions regarding the weight of the evidence, resolving conflicting evidence, and witness credibility. Id. If the trial court has made no specific findings on a factual issue, such findings are interpreted as having been found in accordance with the judgment. Id.

Child Support Awards

Child support awards are within the discretion of the trial court and we review for abuse of discretion. State ex rel. Mosier v. Klein , 83 S.W.3d 15, 16 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002). We will not substitute our judgment for the trial court's absent a manifest abuse of discretion. Id. In determining whether the support amount was unjust and inappropriate, we consider whether the evidence was palpably insufficient to support the award. Id. at 17.

Discussion

We first note several of Husband's Points are impermissibly multifarious and replete with violations of Rule 84.04(d).1 Husband repeatedly failed to identify whether the trial court's alleged errors were unsupported by substantial evidence, against the weight of the evidence, erroneous declarations of the law, or erroneous applications of the law. Distinct claims of error must be asserted in separate Points. Rule 84.04(d) ; Librach v. Librach , 575 S.W.3d 300, 307 (Mo. App. E.D. 2019). We nevertheless exercise our discretion to review Husband's claims ex gratia because his arguments are readily understandable. We exercise this discretion with caution, because each time we review a noncompliant brief ex gratia , we imply substandard briefing is acceptable. It is not. See Scott v. King , 510 S.W.3d 887, 893 (Mo. App. E.D. 2017).

Point I: 2017 Joint Amended Tax Return

In Point I, Husband asserts the parties need to file a joint amended tax return to reflect unreported income from 2017. Husband argues after the amended tax return is filed, the parties will likely either receive a refund or incur additional tax liability, which will need to be divided. Husband asserts the trial court's failure to address the impact of the amended return creates two possibilities: (1) the judgment is not final because the parties’ assets and liabilities have been fully accounted for or (2) the parties will have to determine the value of the amended tax return later, either on remand or in separate litigation.

Wife argues the judgment was final and the trial court did not err because the consequences of the amended return, i.e., a refund or additional liability, did not exist at the time of trial. Wife reasons there was nothing for the trial court to calculate because the consequence of the amended return was speculative. Wife cites Pickering v. Pickering to argue pre-dissolution tax consequences may be properly excluded from a dissolution judgment when there was no evidence of an asset or debt existing at the time of trial. 314 S.W.3d 822, 833-34 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010).

634 S.W.3d 685

We agree with Wife. Like Pickering , we lack "evidence of a marital debt or asset in existence at the time of trial" and conclude "the trial court did not err in failing to divide these alleged assets and liabilities." Id. at 834. "Since we find that the trial court did not err in failing to include these items in its judgment, we need not address any alleged jurisdictional defect." Id.

Point I is denied.

Point II: Maintenance Award to Wife

The trial court awarded Wife $5,000 per month in maintenance. Husband asserts the maintenance award must be reduced because the trial court's calculation of Wife's expenses improperly includes expenses related to the children. The maintenance award relied on Wife's expense statement, which Husband asserts contains four improper expenses "for the direct care and support" of the children. First, Husband contests Wife's monthly $566.27 expense for the cost, insurance, and maintenance of their oldest son's car. Second, Husband argues the children's monthly $225.82 cell phone bill should be excluded from the maintenance award for the same reason. Third, Husband argues Wife's $100 per month expense for cosmetics was a shared expense with their daughter and should be reversed to the extent it exceeds Wife's personal needs. Finally, Husband challenges Wife's $30 per month life insurance policy expense because it benefits the children as the policy holders, not Wife. Husband notes we have held such policies are not to be included in the maintenance calculation. Arndt v. Arndt , 519 S.W.3d 890, 902 (Mo. App. E.D. 2017).

Husband argues child support and spousal maintenance are separate concepts and "maintenance is not for child support." In re Marriage of Neu , 167 S.W.3d 791, 796 (Mo. App. E.D. 2005). Husband argues Wife's list of expenses commingles child support and maintenance, violating this Court's statement,...

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1 practice notes
  • M.L.H. v. Juvenile Officer, WD 84193
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 19, 2021
    ...be treated as separate from the proceeding in which she was initially found to be delinquent and brought under the court's jurisdiction. 634 S.W.3d 678 In B.O. , this Court recognized that, although "motions to modify were not historically used to adjudicate new allegations .... ‘[n]ow, mot......
1 cases
  • M.L.H. v. Juvenile Officer, WD 84193
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 19, 2021
    ...be treated as separate from the proceeding in which she was initially found to be delinquent and brought under the court's jurisdiction. 634 S.W.3d 678 In B.O. , this Court recognized that, although "motions to modify were not historically used to adjudicate new allegations .... ‘[n]ow, mot......

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