from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, No.
4FA-14-01739 CI Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Bethany
Mary-Ellen Meddleton, Anchorage, for Appellant.
L. Callahan, Callahan Law Office, Fairbanks, for Appellee.
Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, and Bolger,
Justices. [Carney, Justice, not participating.]
couple divorced after nearly 30 years of marriage. The former
husband appeals the superior court's valuation of his
corporate stock and its characterization of the former
wife's retirement health benefits as non-marital
property. We affirm the court's stock valuation, but we
reverse its characterization of the retirement health
benefits as non-marital. We therefore remand for valuation of
the health benefits and reconsideration of the equitable
distribution of the marital estate.
FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
Richards-Wiegers and Charles Wiegers married in 1987; they
separated in 2014, and their divorce was finalized in 2016.
Two assets important to the equitable division of their
marital estate are the focus of this appeal.
Charles's A & A Roofing Company, Inc. stock
early 1990s Charles became an officer and shareholder of A
& A Roofing Company, Inc., a closely held corporation
selling and installing commercial and residential roofing. At
separation Charles was the president of A & A Roofing and
owned 7, 652 shares, about 47% of the company's
A Roofing's shareholders have a Shareholders'
Agreement restricting the transferability of and setting the
price for its stock. The price may be modified at any time by
a vote of shareholders holding 75% of the voting shares
"to reflect any amount they agree to be the then current
fair market value of the [s]tock." No particular
valuation method is identified, but in 1983 the company
adopted a valuation calculation referred to as "Method
2, " a liquidation calculation first used in the 1970s
by its then-existing sole shareholder for estate planning
purposes. Although Method 2 is not dictated by the
Shareholders' Agreement, it has been used for about 35
years to value A & A Roofing's stock.
2010 Method 2 has been used to value A & A Roofing's
stock four times: $211/share effective January 1, 2010;
$220/share effective December 31, 2010, in anticipation of a
shareholder's retirement; $184/share effective January 1,
2013, following a distribution of cash and assets to
facilitate the prior shareholder's retirement; and, most
recently, $179/share effective January 1, 2015, just before
Charles's divorce trial. On June 11, 2015, the three
then-existing shareholders signed an "Unanimous Written
Consent in Lie[u] of Special Meeting by Shareholders"
"determining] the 'Fair Market Value' of A &
A Roofing Co., Inc. as of January 1, 2015 [to be]
$179/share." The $ 179/share value was recorded in the
corporate minutes on December 9, 2015, about the time the
divorce trial started.
Amy's retirement health benefits
began working for the University of Alaska in 1979, with a
brief break in service in 1980. Her position was covered by
the Alaska Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS).
Amy's PERS Tier 1 retirement health benefits vested in
1985 after five years of employment, before the marriage. Amy
continued working for the University until January 1999, 18.7
total years of PERS service, accruing 11.7 years during the
marriage. Amy was eligible to retire and access her
retirement health benefits in July 2016 at age 55, and
indicated at trial she would do so.
divorce trial took place over four days between December 2015
and May 2016. A & A Roofing's certified public
accountant testified to the company's use of Method 2 for
stock valuation and other aspects of A & A Roofing's
business. Amy called a certified public accountant, who is
also a business valuation expert, to testify about business
valuation methods other than Method 2. Neither provided an
independent valuation of A & A Roofing stock.
superior court issued a March 2016 order that Amy's PERS
retirement health benefits were a premarital asset as a
matter of law because they were fully vested prior to the
marriage. In June the court determined, among other things,
that Charles's A & A Roofing stock value was
$217/share under the "true asset approach as described
in [Amy's expert's] testimony." The court's
division of the marital estate incorporated these
STANDARD OF REVIEW
are three basic steps in the equitable division of marital
assets: (1) deciding what specific property is available for
distribution, (2) finding the value of the property, and (3)
dividing the property equitably." The first step,
characterizing property as marital or non-marital, involves
mixed questions of law and fact; "we review the superior
court's legal conclusions de novo and its factual
findings for clear error."The second step, factual
determination of property value, is also reviewed for clear
error. "Clear error exists when we are
'left with a definite and firm conviction that the
superior court has made a mistake.' " The third step,
equitable property distribution, is reviewed for abuse of
discretion and "we will not disturb the result
unless it is clearly unjust."
briefed two issues on appeal: whether the superior court
erred by (1) finding the value of Charles's A & A
Roofing stock to be $217/share, and (2)determining Amy's
PERS retirement health benefits were non-marital.
The Superior Court Did Not Clearly Err By Valuing
Charles's A & A Roofing Stock At $217/Share.
argues the superior court's valuation of his corporate
stock is clearly erroneous because the court relied upon
unsupported expert testimony to reach it. Charles contends
the correct fair market value, as determined by the
company's Method 2 valuation formula, is $ 179/share. Amy
supports the court's valuation, arguing that Method 2 is
not an appropriate calculation of fair market value and that
her business valuation expert testified in support of the
The superior court's reliance on Amy's expert's
"true asset" valuation is ...