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Mahan v. Mahan

Supreme Court of Alaska

March 27, 2015

MORRILL MAHAN, Appellant,
v.
JESSICA MAHAN, Appellee

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Kenai, Anna Moran, Judge. Superior Court No. 3KN-11-00497 CI.

Richard W. Postma, Jr., Law Offices of Mitchell K. Wyatt, Anchorage, for Appellant.

Shana Theiler, Walton, Theiler ... Winegarden, LLC, Kenai, for Appellee.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

Page 92

FABE, Chief Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

A husband and wife obtained a marriage dissolution that included a provision to split the " profits. .. after the cost of fuel and can[ne]ry dues" from their jointly owned commercial fishing boat. The ex-spouses dispute the meaning of the term " profits." Each party maintains that the other owes a large sum of money pursuant to the agreement. The superior court approved a standing master's recommendation that interpreted " profits" to mean " payment from the cannery, less deductions for fuel, dues and other advancements." Because the superior court's findings regarding the parties' reasonable expectations at the time of the dissolution agreement are not clearly erroneous, and because the superior court's interpretation of the provision accurately reflects those expectations, we affirm.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Morrill and Jessica Mahan married in 2004 and dissolved their marriage in June 2011. During their marriage, the couple had one medically fragile child. Morrill was the primary wage-earner for the family. As reported in their petition for dissolution, Morrill's total gross wages for 2010 were $137,362.81 while Jessica's total gross wages were $16,716.21. In addition, the petition indicated that Morrill and Jessica had each received $31,292.14 in gross income in 2010 from their commercial fishing business.

The petition for dissolution included an addendum providing for the temporary maintenance of joint interests in the marital home and commercial fishing business. The parties agreed to maintain joint ownership of the marital residence and to split the profits from the commercial fishing business until October 2012, at which point Jessica was to take sole title to the home and Morrill was to take sole title to the commercial fishing boat and permit:

The house and property will be owned jointly until 10/1/2012. The mortgage and utilities will be paid 50% by husband and wife. On 10/1/2012 the house will be paid by wife 100% and the house and property will be then turned over to the wife. The title will be solely in the wife's name. Household furnishings, everything in it will belong to wife.
The commercial fishing boat will be owned jointly until 10/1/2012 and operated by the

Page 93

husband. The profits will be split equal between husband and wife after the cost of fuel and can[ne]ry dues. On 10/1/2012 the commercial fishing boat and permit will be then turned over to the husband. The title will be solely in the husband's name.

A. The Initial Dissolution Hearing

In June 2011 Magistrate Judge Jennifer Wells, serving as a standing master for the superior court, heard testimony from Morrill and Jessica before recommending that the superior court approve their dissolution. Morrill's and Jessica's testimony emphasized the connection between specific provisions of the agreement and the best interests of their child in light of her medical condition. Morrill and Jessica planned to rotate in and out of the marital home every two weeks so that their daughter would not need to travel back and forth between two homes. Morrill also agreed to remain named on the home mortgage even after the transfer of title to Jessica because she would be unable to obtain a low interest rate for the mortgage if she were to refinance on her own. Morrill testified that he intended to stay on the mortgage because " three percent interest. .. [is] hard to beat for [Jessica] and my daughter needs a place to live. .. ." ...


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