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Morehead v. Morehead

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

September 29, 2015

Gregory A. Morehead, appellant and cross-appellee,
v.
Karen L. Morehead, appellee and cross-appellant.

NOT DESIGNATED FOR PERMANENT PUBLICATION

Appeal from the District Court for Cass County: Jeffrey J. Funke, Judge.

Brandie M. Fowler and Matthew Stuart Higgins, of Higgins Law, for appellant.

Virginia A. Albers and Hannah C. Wooldridge, of Slowiaczek, Albers & Astley, P.C., L.L.O., for appellee.

Moore, Chief Judge, and Pirtle and Bishop, Judges.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND JUDGMENT ON APPEAL (WEB OPINION)

Moore, Chief Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Gregory A. Morehead and Karen L. Morehead's marriage was dissolved by a decree of dissolution. Greg challenges various aspects of this decree, including the court's valuation of a business he owns and operates, the alimony award to Karen, and the court's determination not to reduce Karen's alimony award or property equalization payment by the amounts Greg had paid toward her expenses during the pendency of the dissolution proceedings. Karen cross-appeals, arguing that the court abused its discretion by not awarding her attorney fees. We find the district court did not abuse its discretion in any of the ways either party asserts and affirm the decree.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Greg and Karen were married in 1974 in Elk Point, South Dakota. Three children were born during the marriage and all have reached the age of majority. On March 3, 2013, Greg filed a complaint for dissolution of marriage. Karen filed an answer and counterclaim, seeking the district court to require Greg to pay temporary and permanent alimony and to contribute toward her attorney fees and expert witness costs.

The district court entered a temporary order on March 21, 2013. Relying on the parties' stipulation, the court ordered Greg to pay the household expenses related to the marital home and allowed Karen to remain living in the home through the dissolution proceedings. Karen was ordered to maintain health insurance through her employer for herself and Greg. In a subsequent stipulated order, the court approved the parties' agreement that Greg would advance $3, 000 to Karen for the purpose of retaining an accountant to perform a business evaluation.

Greg and Karen appeared for trial on March 26 and May 21, 2014. At the time of trial, Greg was the president and operating manager of M&M Construction, Inc. (M&M Construction) and Karen worked as a secretary in the Papillion-LaVista School District. Greg asserted that he was a partial shareholder in M&M Construction, while Karen contended that Greg was the sole owner of the company. During trial, the parties' evidence focused on Greg's ownership of M&M Construction and the valuation of that company, the division of certain personal property, and Karen's request for alimony. Additional facts regarding these issues will be provided as necessary in the analysis section below.

On August 4, 2014, the district court filed a decree of dissolution of marriage. In dividing the parties' property, the court concluded that Greg solely owned M&M Construction and the court valued the business at $484, 554. The court awarded Greg his ownership interest in M&M Construction, various parcels of real estate, the parties' joint bank account, a vehicle and motorcycle, and his life insurance policy. The court also made Greg responsible for satisfying an outstanding loan. Karen received her vehicle, the parties' household goods and furnishings, a ring, a bank account, and her retirement account. Karen was also awarded certain nonmarital property which included a car and $35, 000 in equity in the marital home. After dividing the property, the court ordered Greg to pay Karen an equalization payment in the amount of $300, 759.11 within 180 days of the decree. After Greg makes this payment, each party will receive exactly one-half of the marital estate.

The court also determined the circumstances of the case made an alimony award appropriate. In reaching this conclusion, the court focused on the facts that the parties had been married for over 40 years, Karen's income had always been less than Greg's, Karen became a stay-at-home mother raising the children for a period of time, and Karen's monthly expenses exceeded her monthly income. The court awarded Karen alimony in the amount of $1, 500 per month for 120 months.

Finally, the court ordered Greg and Karen to pay their own attorney fees. The court specifically noted that each party had incurred significant fees during the pendency of the action and a ...


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