The parties’ Settlement Agreement included a provision for the sale of the marital residence. When husband rejected an offer for the purchase of such residence and asserted he intended to buy the home, the trial court ordered wife to sign a quitclaim deed over to husband. For her equity in the home the Trial Court awarded wife the value of half of the offer for purchase of the home less hypothetical closing costs. Wife appealed the Trial Court’s calculation of equity in the home, as well as other matters.
Wife first challenged the Trial Court’s jurisdiction to amend the parties dissolution decree without making the required CR 60.02 findings. The Appellate Court held this argument was waived because it was not brought up prior to the appellate action. The Appellate Court reiterated the Supreme Court’s holding in Commonwealth v. Steadman that while subject-matter jurisdiction cannot be waived, case specific jurisdiction, jurisdiction over a particular case where the court has jurisdiction of the general matter, can be waived.
The Appellate Court next addressed husband’s claim that wife’s argument is estopped by deed. Although wife executed a quitclaim deed and accepted payment from husband, the Appellate Court held wife did not waive her right to appeal. The court looked to the general support for preservation of the right to appeal and wife’s action, which was in compliance with the trial court’s order. Additionally, the Appellate Court held that the acceptance of payment did not waive the right of appeal. AlthoughComplete Auto Transit holds that a party who accepts payment on a judgment is estopped from pursuing an appeal to reverse that judgment, the Appellate Court held Complete Auto Transit does not apply to “acceptance of monetary payments in dissolution proceedings where there is no disagreement or dispute concerning whether the accepting party was entitled to at least the amount accepted and the only issue on appeal concerns whether the accepting party is entitled to additional money.”
The Appellate court concluded that it was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to use hypothetical closing costs to reduce the amount of equity wife received when husband was keeping the house and had no immediate plans to sell. Including closing costs in equity calculations is only appropriate when “(1) the receiving spouse plans or intends an imminent sale of the property without delay; and (2) credible and reliable evidence supports the estimated costs of sale.”
The Trial Court awarded wife attorney fees because husband willfully and deliberately violated the parties’ settlement agreement. The Appellate Court remanded to Trial Court because the Trial Court did not make a finding about financial circumstances which is required in awarding attorney fees. The Appellate Court upheld the Trial Court’s decision not to impose CR11 sanctions, as wife’s motion was well grounded in law.