Recent Ruling LP v. EP, WD75030 Missouri Court of Appeals

Following a bench trial, the trial court entered a judgment of dissolution, dissolving the marriage of Mother and Father. The trial court divided the marital property, established custody and awarded child support to Mother. On appeal, Father alleges the trial court erred in (1) "not making a just and equitable distribution of property" in that it accepted Mother’s valuation of the home and not the appraiser’s opinion; (2) ordering Father to pay a portion of Mother’s attorney fees, alleging that there was no substantial evidence to support the award; (3) awarding child support for his nineteen-year-old son ("Son") because Son did not meet the statutory requirement of being enrolled in college by October 1 following high school graduation; and (4) in calculating the amount of child support owed because the court’s Form 14 calculation did not contain an overnight visitation credit, nor did it accurately reflect Mother’s monthly income.

 AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART

Held:  (1) because a party is qualified to testify as to the value of property and the court can believe or disbelieve either an owner or appraiser’s valuation of property, the trial court did not err in accepting Mother’s valuation of the marital home such that an equitable distribution resulted;

(2) because substantial evidence established Father’s misconduct during the marriage and separation, as evidenced by incidents of domestic violence against Mother and Son, misuse of finances and his incarceration for felony DWI while the case was pending, the court did not err in awarding Mother a portion of her attorney’s fees;

(3) Because Son had joined the National Guard in order to receive tuition assistance and planned to enroll one semester late following a required training period, the Court did not err in its award of child support for Son as he fits the statutory exception to emancipation; and

(4) with regard to the actual calculation of child support ordered by the court, there was error in the stated income of Mother, which both sides admitted, such that the court’s award erroneously added $30 per month to Father’s child support obligation and added to the child support arrearage owed by Father.  Father was not entitled to overnight visitation credits based on evidence that overnight visits had not occurred during the separation and would likely not occur in the future so as to warrant a credit.