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Husseini v. Husseini

Supreme Court of Alaska

May 7, 2010

Janice Park HUSSEINI, Appellant,
v.
Jalal Keith HUSSEINI, Appellee.

Page 683

Janice Park Husseini, Anchorage, pro se.

No appearance by Appellee.

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

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

I. INTRODUCTION

Janice and Jalal Husseini are in the midst of a divorce proceeding. In February 2008 the trial court bifurcated the parties' divorce over Janice's objection, granting the divorce but reserving all issues of equitable distribution of property. Before the full trial on property issues, the court issued an interim order allowing Janice thirty days to refinance the parties' marital home in her name if she wanted to keep it. When she was unable to do so, the court issued an order for the sale of the residence prior to trial. Although Janice argued that the sale of the residence could cause a loss for the parties, the trial court accepted Jalal's representation that the equity realized from the sale could be used to pay other ongoing marital debts and refused to stay its order for the sale of the residence.

Page 684

The trial court issued several orders, including a writ of assistance to physically remove Janice from the residence and a clerk's deed conveying her interest in the property to Jalal so that a quitclaim deed could be delivered for the sale. Jalal and third-party buyers closed on the sale of the home in October 2008. Janice filed a lis pendens to prevent the buyers from recording the deed after closing. The trial court ordered that the lis pendens was null and void, but stayed that order pending the resolution of this appeal. On appeal, Janice challenges both of the trial court's orders implementing the sale of the marital home prior to a final judgment on property division and the bifurcation of the divorce.

Although Janice's appeal of the bifurcation is untimely, we review it on the merits and conclude that the decision to bifurcate was harmless error. Due to the lack of both factual findings and a statement of legal reasoning from the court below, we are unable to determine whether the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the sale of the residence prior to the final property distribution. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court's orders for the sale of the marital home and for a clerk's deed and remand for further proceedings.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Janice Park Husseini and Jalal Keith Husseini were married in Las Vegas, Nevada in April 2000. On August 27, 2007, Jalal filed a complaint seeking dissolution of the marriage and division of the parties' property. At the time of the divorce proceedings before Superior Court Judge Jack Smith, the Husseinis were residents of Anchorage, Alaska. They have no children together.

After the parties' separation, Janice occupied the marital home, and Jalal was ordered not to return because of tension between the parties. At a hearing on January 15, 2008, the court ordered Jalal to pay the mortgage and utilities until the trial date in February in lieu of providing interim spousal support. [1] In her trial brief, Janice expressed a desire to remain in the marital home and requested ninety days to " investigate the possibility" of refinancing.

During a hearing on February 1, 2008, the trial court issued an interim order giving Janice thirty days to refinance the marital home in her own name. The order further stated that if Janice did not obtain approval to refinance, a realtor would be selected and the house would be listed for sale within seven days. The trial court also decided sua sponte, over Janice's objection, to bifurcate the divorce proceedings from outstanding issues of equitable distribution of property. A decree of divorce was granted on February 18, 2008 that dissolved the legal marriage between the Husseinis.

When Janice was unable to refinance the marital home in her own name within the specified time period, the court entered an order appointing a realtor to list and sell the residence. Janice sought to stay the sale, arguing there was likely little or no equity in the residence and offering to assume the existing mortgage and provide Jalal with a credit for whatever equity the parties had accrued in the residence. Jalal countered that there was approximately five to ten thousand dollars of equity in the residence that could be used to pay other marital bills, that the sale of the residence would relieve the parties of the obligation to make mortgage payments, and that the mortgage payments already in arrears could be rolled into the sale. The court refused to stay its order to sell the residence. In July 2008, after the appointed realtor informed the court that there were interested ...


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