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Beal v. Beal

Supreme Court of Alaska

June 12, 2009

Annette J. BEAL, Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
v.
David D. BEAL, Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Page 1013

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1014

Justin Eschbacher and G.R. Eschbacher, Law Offices of G.R. Eschbacher, Anchorage, for Appellant and Cross-Appellee.

Jimmy E. White, Hughes Pfiffner Gorski Seedorf & Odsen, LLC, Anchorage, for Appellee and Cross-Appellant.

Page 1015

Before : FABE, Chief Justice, EASTAUGH, CARPENETI, and WINFREE, Justices.

OPINION

FABE, Chief Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

This is the second time this divorce case has come Before us. David and Annette Beal each appeal several of the superior court's rulings on remand following our decision in Beal v. Beal ( Beal I ).[1] David appeals the superior court's educational support order requiring him to pay for Annette's attendance at Johnson & Wales University. Because the latest educational support order conforms to the original educational support order, which David did not appeal, we affirm it. David also appeals the superior court's refusal to grant him an " equitable adjustment" to the post-judgment interest he owes. Because David never appealed the post-judgment interest rate, we affirm the superior court's refusal to make the requested adjustment. Annette appeals the superior court's revaluation of the appreciation of David's pre-marital artwork. Because the superior court exceeded the scope of our remand in Beal I by revaluing the appreciation, we reverse the revaluation and instruct the superior court to use the original valuation. Annette also appeals the superior court's recalculation of the interim support judgment against David so as to give him $12,918.86 in credit for certain past payments to the Child Support Enforcement Division made prior to the entry of the judgment. Because the issue whether David was entitled to credit for these payments should have been raised in Beal I, we reverse this $12,918.86 credit. Finally, Annette appeals the superior court's treatment of a $56,017 credit for mortgage principal reduction caused by David's post-separation mortgage payments and the superior court's decision to grant David another $10,869.68 mortgage credit. Because the superior court acted within its broad discretion in fashioning an equitable property division when it awarded David these two credits, we affirm them.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Annette and David Beal were married in 1985 after signing a prenuptial agreement.[2] David was a successful ear, nose, and throat doctor. Annette and David have two children together, both of whom are now adults.

Annette filed for divorce in July 1999. This case was originally assigned to Superior Court Judge Rene J. Gonzalez, who issued an interim support order in October 1999 mandating that David pay monthly child and spousal support to Annette. The order also provided that during the pendency of the divorce Annette would reside in the family home and David would pay the mortgage on it. In January 2000 Judge Gonzalez found that David had not complied with this order and issued a judgment against him in favor of Annette for $64,722.99. Annette satisfied this judgment by executing against various forms of David's property.

A trial was held in August 2000, and Judge Gonzalez issued a property division order on March 7, 2001, making findings covering a wide range of issues. The parties' marital property was divided 55/45 in favor of Annette. The family home was awarded to Annette, who sold it in March 2001.

In April 2001 Judge Gonzalez found that David had again fallen behind on his obligations under the October 1999 interim support order and issued a $230,034.32 judgment against David for unpaid interim support, including unpaid mortgage payments on the family home. Rather than paying the judgment, David deposited a $220,000 supersedeas bond with the clerk of court in May 2001. Further motions regarding David's unpaid support obligations were filed later in 2001.

In their first appeal Before us, both parties appealed numerous issues regarding the property division, the April 2001 interim support judgment, and the superior court's decisions on later motions. Their appeals were consolidated, and in a 2004 opinion ( Beal I ),

Page 1016

we affirmed many aspects of the superior court's decision, remanded some to the superior court, and reversed others. David petitioned for a rehearing regarding the specific issue of the appreciation of his pre-marital artwork, and his petition was denied.

Because Judge Gonzalez had retired, this case was dealt with on remand from 2004 to 2007 by Superior Court Judge William F. Morse, who held hearings and issued, among other things, two sets of findings of fact, an order containing further findings, and final judgments. Judge Morse's findings covered a range of issues, not limited to the topics remanded by this court in Beal I.

Annette now appeals four of Judge Morse's rulings on remand, and David cross-appeals two.

III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

David claims that the superior court's most recent educational support order was erroneous. As David points out, educational support for Annette is a substitute for alimony in this case, and we review alimony awards for abuse of discretion,[3] setting them aside only if they are " unjust or unnecessary." [4]

David also argues that the superior court erred in not granting him an " equitable adjustment" to the interest on the interim support judgment against him. We apply an abuse of discretion standard to the superior court's use of its equitable power.[5]

Annette claims that the superior court exceeded its authority on remand in several respects. " Whether a lower court on remand has correctly applied our mandate is a question of law which we review de novo." [6]

Annette also argues that the superior court erred in the manner in which it awarded credit to David for certain mortgage payments on the parties' home during the pendency of the divorce. " We review for abuse of discretion a superior court's decision whether to give a credit to a spouse for payments made to maintain marital property, such as the family home." [7]

IV. DISCUSSION

A. The Law of the Case Doctrine

" Successive appeals should narrow the issues in a case, not expand them." [8] This is the second appeal in this case. In Beal I we addressed " in excess of twenty issues" surrounding the Beals' divorce and property division.[9] Several of the issues currently Before us were addressed, or could have been addressed, in Beal I. Our ...


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