from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska No.
3AN-14-10538 CI, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Andrew
Anthony Olivera, pro se, Anchorage, Appellant.
Gulkis, Law Office of Adam Gulkis, Anchorage, for Appellee.
Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, Bolger, and
ex-husband challenges three decisions made by the superior
court during divorce proceedings. He argues that the court
erred by (1) failing to enforce the mandatory disclosure
requirements of the Alaska Civil Rules with regard to his
ex-wife's financial information; (2) improperly valuing
the marital home; and (3) awarding attorney's fees
against him for vexatious and bad faith conduct. We find no
abuse of discretion or clear error in the court's rulings
and therefore affirm the judgment.
FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
Olivera and Ronalda Rude-Olivera (now Ronalda Rude) were
married in December 1999 and separated in May 2014. They
initially sought a dissolution but were unable to agree on
the division of their marital assets; in December 2014
Ronalda filed for divorce.
was the primary wage earner for the household during the
marriage. Anthony's employment was "less consistent,
" and the parties' marital estate was burdened with
and Ronalda had sold their Wasilla home in 2010 for $204,
000, and they used $90, 000 of the proceeds to purchase a
foreclosed home in Campo, California, so that Anthony could
"be near the U.C. San Diego Medical Center where he was
supposedly undergoing cancer treatment." Ronalda did not
consistently live in the Campo house, returning to Alaska
periodically for employment opportunities.
Anthony and Ronalda used the Campo house as security for a
$75, 000 loan. In June 2014 the lender filed a notice of
foreclosure. Anthony told Ronalda that he would return the
house to the bank to pay off the loan if she quitclaimed her
interest in the property to him, and in July 2014 she did so.
But rather than return the property to the bank, Anthony
borrowed money to bring the loan current. In September 2014
Anthony's girlfriend took over the loan payments for the
property, and in November Anthony quitclaimed the property to
her for $100.
the divorce proceedings were commenced in December 2014, the
parties exchanged financial declarations. In March 2015
Anthony moved to compel production of additional financial
information from Ronalda. The superior court denied
Anthony's motion, finding that Ronalda had complied with
the requirements of Alaska Civil Rule 26.1 but noting that
Anthony was free to make requests for specific information
under the discovery rules. Anthony followed up with
interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for
admission, then filed a second motion to compel in September
2015 seeking updated financial information. The court granted
this motion in part.
was held over three days in late 2015 and early 2016. The
parties primarily contested the characterization and value of
the Campo property, a Native allotment in Trapper Creek, some
vehicles and firearms, bank and retirement accounts, and
debt. Both Anthony and Ronalda testified about the Campo
property's value. Anthony used the tax assessment to
argue that it was worth $95, 600; Ronalda countered that in
her opinion it was worth $208, 000.
superior court made preliminary findings orally and invited
written closing arguments from the parties. It then issued
extensive written findings of fact and conclusions of law
along with a two-page property spreadsheet. The court
characterized the Campo property, three out of five vehicles,
two firearms, and most of the debt as marital. It found that
the Native allotment, two vehicles, four firearms, and some
personal loans were the separate property of one spouse or
the other. The court accepted Ronalda's $208, 000
valuation of the Campo property and voided her quitclaim of
the property to Anthony. It then awarded 58% of the marital
estate to Anthony, to include the Campo property, and it
ordered him to make a $53, 375.89 equalization payment to
Ronalda secured by that property.
moved for an award of over $45, 000 in attorney's fees
and costs, including enhanced fees for Anthony's
allegedly vexatious and bad faith conduct. The court granted
the motion in part. It observed that under ordinary
circumstances it would not award Ronalda any fees because she
was "in a stronger financial position" than
Anthony. But it found that many of Anthony's
"actions throughout the case [had] been conducted in bad
faith, [had] been vexatious, and were largely for the
purposes of delay and harassment, " and for that reason
it awarded Ronalda the "very modest fee" of $5,
000; it noted that the award was "relatively small
because of [Anthony's] poor financial position."
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
equitable division of marital assets involves three steps:
(1) determining what property is available for distribution,
(2) finding the value of the property, and (3) dividing the
property equitably." We review the valuation of property for
clear error because it is a factual
determination. Clear error exists "only when we are
left with a definite and firm conviction based on the entire
record that a mistake has been made."
review discovery rulings and awards of attorney's fees
for abuse of discretion." "A decision constitutes
abuse of discretion if it is 'arbitrary, capricious,
manifestly unreasonable, or. . . stems from an improper