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Blaufuss v. Ball

Supreme Court of Alaska

July 12, 2013

Andrea BLAUFUSS, Appellant,
v.
Melvin BALL, Appellee.

Page 282

Andrea Blaufuss, pro se, Bellevue, Washington, Appellant.

Jürgen Jensen, The Law Office of Jürgen Jensen, Anchorage, for Appellee.

Before: FABE, Chief Justice, WINFREE, STOWERS, and MAASSEN, Justices.

OPINION

WINFREE, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

After a trial the superior court granted a decree of divorce, distributed marital debts and property, and ordered the husband to pay spousal support for an indefinite time period. More than three years later— in front of a different superior court judge— the wife sought relief for the husband's failure to

Page 283

pay any spousal support. The husband in turn filed a motion to set aside the original spousal support award, arguing the judgment was void: (1) for lack of personal and subject matter jurisdiction at the trial; and (2) because he had not received due process during the trial. The superior court granted the husband's motion, declaring the spousal support judgment void because the husband had not received due process during the trial. The wife appeals; we reverse.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Melvin Ball and Andrea Blaufuss (f/k/a Andrea Ball) were married in Washington in 1980. Ball left Blaufuss and moved to Alaska in 2002, but he continued to support Blaufuss and their minor child until 2006. In October 2006 Ball filed for divorce in Alaska. The trial court issued a domestic relations pretrial order listing the documentation requirements for spousal support motions— the order explained that " [a]ll motions and oppositions involving spousal support must be accompanied by a financial declaration affidavit." This order was served on Blaufuss.

Blaufuss did not timely respond to the divorce complaint, and in March 2007 Ball filed a default application. In April Blaufuss's sister, Kathie Price, emailed the superior court a response explaining that Blaufuss: (1) suffered fro mental illness and her condition had been deteriorating; (2) was classified as categorically needy by Washington state; (3) was dependent on Ball as her sole source of income; (4) was in arrears for six months on her mobile home lot space fees; (5) owed more than $4,000 in property taxes on her mobile home; (6) had no money to pay her electric bill; (7) had a broken furnace and had been heating her home using the oven; and (8) had moved in with Price. Price requested spousal support for Blaufuss. Blaufuss signed a note authorizing Price's response.

The trial court accepted the email as Blaufuss's answer, denied Ball's default request, and scheduled a trial-setting conference. After that conference the court issued an order explaining that divorce, spousal support, and property and debt would be addressed at trial. Trial took place in June 2007. Ball, Blaufuss, and Price appeared telephonically.

Ball testified that he sent Blaufuss money after he moved to Alaska in 2002, but stopped supporting her in November 2006 because he " found out about her use of cocaine and spending the money on ... drugs and [that] she also was ... being unfaithful." Ball testified that he had earned approximately $94,000 a year, but that his income recently had dropped to approximately $54,000 a year. When asked about Blaufuss's assertion that she " suffers from mental ...


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