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Gerritsen v. Gerritsen

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

May 28, 2013

Steven Gerritsen, appellant and cross-appellee,
v.
Suzanne Gerritsen, appellee and cross-appellant.

NOT DESIGNATED FOR PERMANENT PUBLICATION

Appeal from the District Court for Adams County: Terri S. Harder, Judge.

Vikki S. Stamm, of Stamm & Associates, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.

Gregory C. Damman, of Blevens & Damman, and Robert J. Parker, Jr., of Seiler & Parker, P.C., L.L.O., for appellee.

Sievers, Pirtle, and Riedmann, Judges.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND JUDGMENT ON APPEAL

Pirtle, Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Steven Gerritsen appeals, and Suzanne Gerritsen cross-appeals, from an order of the district court for Adams County dissolving the parties' marriage. Steven and Suzanne both challenge various aspects of the trial court's division of the marital estate and the court's failure to award either party attorney fees. Steven also argues that he should have been awarded alimony. Because we find no merit to either party's assignments of error, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

Steven and Suzanne met through an Internet dating site in 2008. At the time, Steven lived in Nebraska and had his own business as an auctioneer and appraiser. Suzanne lived in Michigan and was a special education teacher. Steven proposed in December, and they got married in June 2009. The parties separated in February 2010, and Steven filed a complaint for dissolution of marriage in April. Suzanne subsequently filed an answer and cross-complaint. No children were born during the marriage.

At the hearing on the dissolution action, Steven testified that in April 2009, prior to the marriage, he and Suzanne decided to buy property in Ayr, Nebraska. The parties took out a loan with Harvard State Bank to purchase the property, and Steven issued a check for $10, 000 to the bank as a downpayment for the loan. The bank also took a security interest in a house owned by Suzanne, located in Prosser, Nebraska. The Prosser house was previously owned by Steven's mother, but she deeded it to Suzanne shortly after the parties were married. The agreement with the bank was that Steven was going to fix up the Prosser house and then sell it, and the proceeds would be applied to the loan on the Ayr property.

The Ayr property consisted of a house and 87 acres of land. At the time the parties purchased the Ayr property, 50 acres of the property was farm ground and the remaining property was pasture. Steven testified that he made extensive improvements to the land, such as leveling, terracing, and tree removal, which increased the number of acres that could be used for farm ground from 50 to 77. He testified that he took out additional loans to pay for the improvements.

Steven and Suzanne purchased multiple animals after they were married, with the intent of opening a petting zoo for handicapped children on the Ayr property. The animals included horses, goats, alpacas, donkeys, a bull, and a potbellied pig. After the parties separated and during the pendency of the divorce, Steven cared for the animals on his own.

Following the hearing, the trial court entered a decree dissolving the parties' marriage and dividing the marital estate. Specifically, the trial court treated the Prosser house as a marital asset and awarded it to Suzanne. It ordered that the Ayr property be sold and that any remaining balance, after the loan from Harvard State Bank is paid, be divided equally between the parties. Although both parties claimed that they should receive credit for the $10, 000 downpayment on the Ayr property, the trial court awarded neither party a premarital offset. The trial court also did not allow Steven any credit for improvements he made to the Ayr property, and it denied his claim to be reimbursed for expenses he incurred in caring for the parties' animals.

As to personal property, the court found that Steven had disposed of certain premarital items of Suzanne's, including a carousel horse, and entered judgment against Steven for the value of those items. The trial court also entered judgment against Steven for unpaid monthly fees for the storage unit where Steven had stored Suzanne's personal property. Finally, the trial court denied Steven's request for alimony and ordered each party to pay their own attorney fees.

Both parties filed motions for new trial, which were denied.

ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

Steven assigns that the trial court erred in (1) determining that the Prosser property was marital property, rather than his separate property; (2) failing to give him credit for the $10, 000 downpayment on the Ayr property; (3) failing to give him credit for improvements he made to the Ayr property; (4) failing to equally split all the debt owed on the Ayr property; (5) failing to order Suzanne to reimburse him for money spent caring for the parties' animals; (6) entering judgment against Steven for the monthly storage fee for Suzanne's personal property; (7) finding that a carousel horse, valued at $2, 000, was a premarital asset of Suzanne's; (8) failing to award him alimony; and (9) failing to award him attorney fees.

On cross-appeal, Suzanne assigns that the trial court erred in (1) determining that the Prosser property was marital property, rather than her separate property; (2) failing to find that the $10, 000 downpayment on the Ayr property was her ...


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