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Martin v. Martin

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 14, 2018

DEREK VAN MARTIN Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
ANNA PARKER MARTIN Defendant-Appellee

          Appealed from the Eighth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Winn, Louisiana Trial Court No. 41, 711 Honorable Robert W. Kostelka, Judge Ad Hoc

          TRACY W. HOUCK Counsel for Appellant

          MIXON, CARROLL & FRAZIER, PLLC By: Rossanna Rahim McIlwain Counsel for Appellee

          Before MOORE, PITMAN, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          MCCALLUM, J.

         Derek Martin appeals from a judgment of partition which incorporated the findings of a declaratory judgment. The declaratory judgment determined that increases in value of his separate property during the marriage, namely his retirement account and a closely-held corporation in which he owned an interest, were community property.

         We reverse the declaratory judgment in part, vacate the judgment of partition, and remand.

         FACTS

         Derek Martin and Anna Martin were married on February 14, 2004. Before and during the marriage, Derek worked for P&M Services, Inc., a closely-held family corporation in which he owned a 30% interest. During this time, Anna worked as a public school teacher. P&M performed plumbing and industrial maintenance work. Prior to the marriage, Anna and Derek each had their own retirement account. Anna's account was through her employment as a public school teacher. According to Derek's brief, each party made contributions to their respective accounts before and during the marriage.

         The day before they married, Derek and Anna executed a marriage contract ("contract"), which states, in part:

In the event the parties remain married they shall be subject to the provisions of the Louisiana Revised Civil Code which establish a community of acquets and gains between husband and wife. However, should the parties divorce, Derek Van Martin shall be entitled to all of his interest in P&M Services, Inc., and all of his interest in his retirement account. Anna Parker Frederick will be entitled to receive all funds in her public school employee's retirement account. Only the remaining property owned by the parties will be considered community property in the event of a divorce.

         A petition for divorce was filed on February 21, 2008, with the judgment of divorce rendered on May 15, 2009. On June 8, 2009, Derek filed a petition to partition the community property. Three years later, the court appointed a special master to assist the court regarding disputes that Anna and Derek had concerning the value of reimbursement claims, the allotment of property, and the appraisal of community property.

         On February 5, 2013, Anna filed a petition for declaratory judgment. Her petition for declaratory judgment was given the same docket number as the petition for partition. Anna argued that the phrase "all of his interest" in the contract did not mean the community's interest, and that the contract did not reserve to Derek any increase in the value of P&M or of his retirement account during the marriage. She further contended that Derek had no interest in her retirement account under the terms of the contract.

         A hearing on the petition for a declaratory judgment was held on May 29, 2013, during which the trial judge told the parties that after examining the record, he did not see the need for any testimony. On July 30, 2013, the trial court rendered judgment declaring that any increases in value of P&M and of Derek's retirement account during the existence of the marriage belonged to the community, while any increase in value of Anna's public school retirement account during the marriage was her separate property.

         Derek filed a motion for new trial on August 22, 2013. The motion was denied on November 1, 2013. Derek filed a petition for a devolutive appeal from the declaratory judgment on January 10, 2014. On April 23, 2014, this court entered an order of dismissal on the grounds that the declaratory judgment was a partial judgment that was not designated as a final judgment under La. C.C.P. art. 1915(B) and thus not appealable. Anna's motion to dismiss the appeal was denied as moot.

         A hearing before the special master was held on October 19, 2014. On January 28, 2015, the special master provided her written recommendations and findings of fact. She began by summarizing the contract before quoting from the declaratory judgment. She then made her recommendations and findings of fact, including calculating the amount of the increase in value of Derek's retirement account during the marriage, and then determining what Anna was entitled to under the declaratory judgment. She recognized that under the terms of the declaratory judgment, Anna was entitled to one-half of the increase in the value of Derek's interest in P&M during the marriage. However, the special master was unable to determine the increase in value of P&M without the assistance of a certified public accountant ("CPA").

         Both parties objected to the recommendations and findings of fact. In particular, Derek objected to the two determinations that were made in accordance with the declaratory judgment. He added that he felt the court had erred in its ruling in the declaratory judgment, and he objected to any ruling in accordance therewith.

         On June 11, 2015, the court agreed to the appointment of a CPA to determine the value of any increase in the stock of P&M. The CPA's report was prepared on September 26, 2017.

         On January 10, 2018, the court rendered a written judgment of partition. The court adopted the recommendations of the special master and the CPA's valuation of the increase in value of P&M and made them a part of the judgment of partition.

          Derek has appealed from the ...


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