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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. McLaren v. McLaren (1/20/2012) sp-6643

McLaren v. McLaren (1/20/2012) sp-6643

        Notice: This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the PACIFIC  REPORTER. 
        Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts, 
        303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878, email 
        corrections@appellate.courts.state.ak.us. 

                 THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA 

TERESA S. McLAREN,                              ) 
                                                )       Supreme Court No. S-13031 
                        Appellant,              ) 
                                                )       Superior Court No. 3AN-06-12249 CI 
        v.	                                     ) 
                                                )       O P I N I O N 
DARREN G. McLAREN,                              ) 
                                                )       No. 6643 - January 20, 2012 
                        Appellee.	              )
 
                                                )
 

                Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third 
                Judicial District, Anchorage, Michael Spaan, Judge. 

                Appearances:       Teresa    S.   McLaren,      pro   se,  Glennallen, 
                Appellant.     Wayne      Anthony     Ross,   Ross    &   Miner,   P.C., 
                Anchorage, for Appellee. 

                Before:      Carpeneti,     Chief    Justice,   Fabe,   Winfree,     and 
                Christen, Justices. [Eastaugh, Justice, not participating.] 

                CARPENETI, Chief Justice.
 
                CHRISTEN, Justice, dissenting.
 

I.       INTRODUCTION 

                A   husband   sued   his   wife   for   divorce.  The   superior   court   divided   the 

couple's property, intending to award each spouse approximately half of the marital 

estate.    The    wife,   who    appeared    pro   se  in  the  proceedings      below    and  remains 

unrepresented,   appeals   multiple   aspects   of   the   property   division.     After   a   thorough 

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review of the record, we conclude that the superior court correctly resolved all of the 

issues appealed.    Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the superior court. 

II.     FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS 

        A.      Facts 

                Teresa and Darren McLaren began living together in 1988 although the 

approximate date of Teresa's divorce from her second husband was July 1, 1989. Teresa 

and Darren did not become legally married until October 24, 1999. They had no children 

together and separated in 2005.       Darren sued Teresa for divorce in October 2006. 

                Darren provided initial disclosures to Teresa as required by Alaska Civil 

Rule 26.1, but Teresa did not meet her responsibility to provide disclosures to Darren. 

Several   times,   Darren's   counsel   asked   Teresa   for   discovery;   though   she   eventually 

responded, her responses were deficient, leading the court to issue an order compelling 

her to provide complete discovery responses. After Teresa still failed to provide Darren 

with the records he had requested - which included information regarding the value of 

her civil service retirement as well as credit records that would have shown when the 

credit card debt in her name was incurred - the superior court issued a subpoena duces 

tecum ordering her to bring the records to her deposition.            Teresa refused to attend the 

deposition and at no point before or during the trial submitted the records Darren had 

requested, consequently leaving her claims as to the credit card debt and the civil service 

retirement    unsubstantiated.     In   her   response   to  Darren's    first  set  of  requests  for 

production, Teresa stated that she gave Darren's counsel power of attorney to access her 

civil   service  retirement;   however,   this   alleged   power   of   attorney   does  not   appear 

anywhere in the record and she made no mention of it in her testimony. 

                At trial, the parties disputed the value of several items and disagreed as to 

whom those items should be awarded.             The superior   court valued the entire marital 

estate, including property acquired by the parties during their pre-marriage cohabitation 

                                                 -2-                                           6643
 

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                         1 
(after July 1, 1989),  at $277,868.44, awarding 52.5% to Teresa and the remainder to 

Darren.    Several items and categories of property are at issue on appeal.               The relevant 

facts with respect to these items are as follows: 

                1.      Teresa's civil service retirement 

                The   superior   court   characterized   the   portion   of   Teresa's   civil   service 

retirement that she earned in the ten years of cohabitation preceding the couple's legal 

marriage as part of the marital estate. 

                As noted, Darren made several discovery requests concerning the value of 

Teresa's retirement, but she did not provide discovery even after the superior   court 

issued   an   order   to   compel   discovery.     At   trial,   lacking   the   documentation   he   had 

requested from Teresa, Darren presented an expert report estimating the value of the 

marital portion of Teresa's retirement to be $139,532.   Although Teresa questioned the 

accuracy of the expert's estimate in her trial testimony, she did not offer an alternative 

valuation.    In its findings, the superior court adopted Darren's expert's estimate. 

                2.      The Glassply boat, the Jetcraft boat, and the Pioneer stereo 

        1       The dissent correctly notes that the superior court did not make any express 

findings on the coverture period in this case.  But by characterizing cohabitation-period 
assets as marital, the superior court did implicitly find that the parties' pre-marriage 
cohabitation, at least beginning when Teresa's divorce became final, should be included 
in the coverture period.  Testimony at trial regarding the parties' commingling of assets 
before they were married supports the superior court's implicit finding.                 When Teresa 
and Darren moved in together, Teresa's two children, aged 11 and 13, came with her; 
Teresa did not seek child support from her former husband, and Teresa and Darren 
supported the children; payments on property owned by Teresa and her former husband 
came     from    Teresa    and   Darren's    checking     account;    Teresa    and   Darren    together 
purchased a residence in Anchorage; and they also purchased a lot at Lake Louise. 
There does not appear to be a real dispute that the parties became an economic unit in 
July 1989 and continued to be so until and after they married. 

                                                   -3-                                             6643
 

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                Teresa listed in her asset spreadsheet a number of items that the superior 

court did not include in its final distribution of the marital estate.          These items include: 

a Glassply boat that Teresa valued at $8,500, a Jetcraft boat that Teresa valued at $6,500, 

and   a   Pioneer   stereo   that   Teresa   valued   at   $1,000.  On   the   asset   spreadsheet   she 

submitted in discovery and as an exhibit at trial, Teresa characterized these items as 

premarital.    With respect to the Glassply and Jetcraft boats, in particular, Teresa stated 

in her pretrial brief that they should be awarded to Darren in the final distribution. Thus, 

Teresa's apparent position was that the boats were Darren's separate property.                   In the 

asset spreadsheet he submitted as an exhibit at trial, Darren made no mention of the 

stereo, but stated that   the boats were his premarital property.             At trial, neither party 

offered any specific testimony as to the stereo or either of the boats, and Teresa never 

revised her initial characterization of the items as premarital.           Finally, there is nothing 

in the record   indicating when these items were purchased (that is, before the couple 

began to cohabit or after). 

                The superior court did not include any of these items in its findings of fact 

or in the final distribution spreadsheet, adopting both Darren's characterization and what 

appeared to be Teresa's position that the items were not part of the marital estate. 

                3.      Darren's tools 

                Darren has a large tool collection that he uses in his work.  At trial, Darren 

submitted evidence that his tools were worth $12,500 and carried $4,677 in outstanding 

debt, resulting in a net value of $7,823.         Darren testified that his valuation included all 

of the tools he had purchased since the time he and Teresa had "been together."  He went 

on to testify that "a lot of the tools [are] premarital."       Because he was referring to tools 

that he included in the marital estate, it is clear that he meant that he had acquired them 

before the couple married.  Thus, Darren's valuation appears to have included all of the 

tools he acquired during the relationship, both before they were married and during the 

                                                  -4-                                             6643
 

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marriage.  Darren based his valuation of the tools on his own receipts and the opinion of 

professional tool dealers. 

                 While   Teresa   also   valued   the   tools   several   times,   her   estimates   varied 

greatly from one valuation to the next. In Teresa's June 2007 response to interrogatories, 

Teresa stated that the tools were worth $20,000.  In the asset spreadsheet she submitted 

in discovery and at trial, Teresa valued the tools at $30,000.   Finally, in her reply to the 

trial brief from October of the same year, she implied that the value of the tools was well 

over $60,000.      She based this estimate on her memory of how much one of Darren's 

toolboxes cost and the cost of a new set of mechanic's tools similar to the sets that she 

said Darren had in his collection. 

                 The superior court adopted Darren's valuation, awarding him the tools with 

a net marital value of $7,822, and making him solely responsible for all the monies owed 

on them. 

                 4.      Debts in Teresa's name 

                 There were several debts in Teresa's name alone.   In her briefing and later 

at   trial,   Teresa   stated   that   these   debts   were   incurred   for   marital   expenses,   and   were 
consequently marital in nature.2 

                 Darren conceded that one of the debts in Teresa's name, the Atlantic debt, 

was marital.  But he contested the other debts in her name and he requested that Teresa 

bring her credit records to her deposition so that she could substantiate her claims that 

        2        With respect to the Bank of America credit card debt, in particular, Teresa 

asserted that while the card was in her name, Darren had incurred the debt on it.  She 
testified that "this card [was] originally a . . . card that I had taken out for Darren . . . he 
charged everything . . . on that card, I did not charge anything on that" and went on to 
testify   that   Darren   made   these   charges   while   the   couple   was   still   together.  Darren 
disputed this at trial, stating that he had no knowledge of the Bank of America credit card 
debt. 

                                                    -5-                                              6643
 

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the other debts in her name were actually marital debts.                Teresa refused to attend her 

deposition. Darren testified that he had had no knowledge of the debts before the divorce 

proceedings,      implying     that  Teresa    had   incurred    these   debts   after  the   couple    had 

separated,   and   asserted   that   the   debts   should   therefore   be   characterized   as   Teresa's 

separate property.   The superior court concluded, "Teresa is solely responsible for such 

debts." 

                 5.      The antiques/household furnishings 

                 Included     in  the  couple's    personal   property     is  a  collection   of   antique 

furniture.   The superior court found: 

                 The parties own $60,000 of antique furniture.  Teresa claims 
                 some of this furniture is pre-marital.  Darren stated most was 
                purchased during the marriage.   The parties are in agreement 
                 that   the   furniture   was   used   in   the   family   house   and   that 
                 Teresa   should   get   that   furniture.   Teresa   is   awarded   this 
                 furniture with the marital value of $45,000. 

                 Darren valued the "antique furniture" at $60,000 and asserted that it was 

purchased during the marriage.           Darren testified that all of the household furnishings 

were antique except for the bed and computer desk, implying that the $60,000 value he 

proposed applied to all of the household furnishings, with two minor exceptions. Darren 

testified that his valuation of the furniture was based on what Teresa had told him it was 

worth.    He went on to say that with the exception of "a few tapestries," most of the 

antiques had been purchased once the couple was together.  In his pre-trial brief and on 

the asset spreadsheet he submitted at trial, Darren characterized the full $60,000 value 

as marital property. 

                 In her pre-trial brief, Teresa stated that the whole of the household furniture 

and antiques was worth "maybe $60,000."  On the asset spreadsheet that she submitted 

in discovery and at trial, she stated that the antiques were her separate property, but did 

                                                    -6-                                              6643
 

----------------------- Page 7-----------------------

not specify what portion of the household furnishings she considered "antique" or what 

the   value of the antiques apart from the rest of the household furnishings might be. 

Disputing   Darren's   statements   that   nearly   all   of   the   antiques   were   marital,   Teresa 

testified that she purchased most of the furniture in 1982, long before the beginning of 

the marital community.         Again, however, she failed to specify which of the household 

furnishings she considered antique or what their current value might be. Similarly, in her 

response to interrogatories, Teresa stated that some of the "furn[iture], antiques, [and] 

collectibles" were her separate property because they were obtained before the marital 

community began, but she failed to specify which particular items she was referring to 

and stated that a current value for this separate property was "unavailable."                    At trial, 

Teresa testified that only 30% of the total $60,000 in home furnishings was purchased 

after she and Darren began to cohabit, controverting Darren's position that the complete 

$60,000 in home furnishings was marital. 

                 With   regard   to   what   portion   of   the   antique   furniture   was   marital,   the 

superior court concluded that 75% of the $60,000 in "Antique Furniture" was marital, 

and that the remainder was Teresa's separate property. 

                 6.      The EMC motorhome 

                 Darren   estimated   that   the   couple's   1989   EMC   motorhome   was   worth 

$15,000, but that due to an outstanding $14,329.33 on the loan used to purchased the 

motorhome, the net value was a mere $670.67.  Teresa  testified that she did not dispute 

Darren's   estimation   of   the   motorhome's   net   value.      Teresa   also   testified   that   it   was 

Darren's idea to buy the motorhome, and that the loan to buy the motorhome and the 

motorhome   itself   were   in   his   name.     Further,   Teresa   stated   that   she   did   not   desire 

ownership of the motorhome because she did not want to suffer the burden of making 

payments      on   the  outstanding     loan.   Additionally,   Teresa       testified  at  trial   that   the 

                                                    -7-                                              6643
 

----------------------- Page 8-----------------------

motorhome   "need[ed]   a   lot   of   work"   that   she   could   not   afford. The   superior   court 

awarded Teresa the 1989 EMC motorhome at a net value of $1,670.67, with Teresa 

solely responsible for all debt due on the motorhome. 

                7.      Lake Louise property 

                The parties own two lots at Lake Louise, "Lot 2" and "Lot 3."  Matanuska- 

Susitna borough tax assessment records valued Lot 2 at $26,300 and Lot 3 at $26,600 

for tax year 2006.      Lot 2 includes a cabin, which Darren described as incomplete and 

"just a basic weathered-in shell."        Darren valued Lot 2 at $56,000, which he explained 

is the sum of the assessment value plus the amount he paid for the kit that he used to 

build the cabin.     Darren then subtracted the amounts owed on the properties from his 

total, and reached an equity value of $27,098.61 for the two lots.  The trial court adopted 

Darren's valuation. 

                8.      The Landingcraft boat 

                Though Teresa valued the couple's Landingcraft boat at $10,000 on the 

asset   spreadsheet   she   submitted   as   an   exhibit   at   trial,   she   assigned   it   other   values 

elsewhere in the record.  In her response to Darren's first request for production, Teresa 

valued the Landingcraft at $30,000.   Then, in her reply to Darren's trial brief, she stated 

that   Darren   had   "completely   undervalued   it"   when   he   said   it   was   worth   $10,000, 

estimating that "[i]f it was sold tomorrow it would sell for at least $80,000."                  But the 

asset   spreadsheet   she     presented    as  an  exhibit   at   trial   -  the  last   valuation  of   the 

Landingcraft she submitted to the court - appeared to adopt Darren's valuation, stating 

the Landingcraft was worth $10,000.  When the trial court questioned Darren about the 

value of the Landingcraft, it appears to have assumed that Teresa's most recent valuation 

was the one she intended and that, consequently, the parties did not dispute the $10,000 

value.   At trial, Teresa offered no testimony about the boat or its valuation.              When the 

trial judge asked Teresa if she disputed Darren's valuation of any of the boats, Teresa 

                                                   -8-                                             6643
 

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made no mention of the Landingcraft.          The superior court valued the Landingcraft at 

$10,000 and awarded it to Darren. 

               9.      The Grayling boat 

               The couple also owned a 1991 Grayling boat, which the parties agreed was 

a marital asset worth $25,000.  In her response to Darren's interrogatories, Teresa stated 

that   she  wanted   the  Grayling    boat  because    she  had  an  opportunity    to  use  it  for 

employment.  However, in her reply to Darren's trial brief, she stated that she wanted the 

Grayling because she planned to live on Lake Louise, and would "need a large boat to 

travel safely on such a large body of water."  When Teresa testified at trial, the judge told 

her that he needed to know why she wanted the Grayling so he could take her reasons 

into account when making a fair and equitable allocation of the assets; Teresa simply 

responded:    "Because out of the five boats, that is the one I want."       At no point during 

the trial did Teresa mention plans to use the Grayling in business. 

               Darren, on the other hand, provided the trial court with a detailed account 

of his plans to use the Grayling in the water taxi business that he was planning to run on 

Lake Louise.    In his trial brief, Darren stated that prior to the separation, he had begun 

taking steps towards establishing a water taxi and freighting business.  Darren explained 

that the Grayling was purchased for use in that business.          Darren testified that he still 

intended to use the Grayling in running the water taxi business and that he already had 

an agreement with Hope Cottage to run their tours.            The superior court awarded the 

Grayling to Darren, but, in accordance with Darren's wishes, awarded Teresa a 14-foot 

boat that was his premarital property. 

                                                -9-                                          6643
 

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                10.      The house 

                The   superior   court   made   the   following   findings   of   fact   regarding   the 

parties' house: 

                In January 2007, Darren received notice that Teresa had not 
                made any payments on the house since March 2006, and as 
                a result the house was in foreclosure.  Darren finally was able 
                to   work    out  a  payment     plan   to  get   that  house   out   of 
                foreclosure.    On March 6, 2007 Teresa signed a quitclaim 
                deed signing the house over to Darren and Teresa agreed in 
                open   court on April 20, 2007 that Darren could have that 
                house as an advance distribution so Darren could keep the 
                house out of foreclosure.       As a result, Darren has had to be 
                solely responsible for the payments on that house from the 
                time of Teresa's default in May 2006 in an amount in excess 
                of $20,000. 

                The court awarded the house, and all of the debt on the house, to Darren. 

                11.     $4,500 

                The superior court found that "Teresa has testified that she withdrew and 

kept $4,500 from one of the parties' joint accounts."            In the appeal briefs, both parties 

state or imply that the trial court treated this amount as marital property that had gone to 

Teresa.  In fact, this does not appear to be the case.         Darren's proposed findings of fact 

and   conclusions   of   law   say:   "Teresa   should   keep   the   other   accounts,   as   well   as   the 

monies she removed from the joint account, for a total value of $5,076."  But the court's 

findings of fact and conclusions of law say only: "Teresa is awarded the other accounts." 

The court's property division spreadsheet attributes only $576.15 in bank account assets 

to Teresa, and does not include the $4,500 anywhere else. 

        B.      Proceedings 

                Darren sued Teresa for divorce in 2006.  Darren has been represented by 

counsel throughout the proceedings. While Teresa was initially represented by counsel, 

                                                 -10-                                            6643
 

----------------------- Page 11-----------------------

her   attorney   withdrew   in   February   2007   due   to   a   breakdown   in   the   attorney-client 

relationship.  Teresa appeared pro se for all relevant portions of the proceedings below. 

                 As discussed in detail above, Teresa was generally uncooperative during 

discovery.      Both   parties   filed   pre-trial   briefs   and   testified   at   trial. At   the   close   of 

testimony, the trial judge stated that he would leave the record open for ten days to allow 

the   parties   to  submit    their  proposed     findings    of  fact   and   conclusions     of  law;   he 

specifically instructed Teresa that if there were any specific findings she wanted the court 

to make regarding any of the property, she should submit them to the court within that 

ten-day period.      While Darren submitted proposed findings, Teresa did not. 

                 In   December   2007,   the   superior   court   issued      its   findings   of   fact   and 

conclusions of law.       Teresa appeals several aspects of the court's decision. 

III.    STANDARD OF REVIEW 
                 Questions of fact are reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard.3                    A 

factual determination is clearly erroneous if it is unsupported by the record, or if  we are 
left with a definite and   firm conviction that a mistake has been made.4                   Valuation is 

factual and will only be reversed for clear error.5 

                 It   is   a   function   of   the   trial   court,   not   the   reviewing   court,   to   judge   the 
credibility of witnesses and to weigh conflicting evidence.6             We will generally accept the 

        3       Moffitt v. Moffitt, 749 P.2d 343, 347 (Alaska 1988). 

        4       Id. at 348. 

        5        Krize v. Krize, 145 P.3d 481, 487 (Alaska 2006). 

        6        Pam R. v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs., 185 P.3d 67, 71 (Alaska 

2008). 

                                                   -11-                                                 6643 

----------------------- Page 12-----------------------

trial court's determination of the credibility of witnesses since it saw and heard the 
witnesses first hand.7 

                The    equitable    division   of   property   "is  reviewable     under   an  abuse    of 
discretion standard and will not be reversed 'unless it is clearly unjust.' "8          Equal division 

of   property   is   presumptively   valid.9   The   characterization   of   property   as   marital   or 

separate is also reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard.10               Finally, whether or 

not   the   equities   require   invasion   of   premarital   assets   is   also   reviewed   for   abuse   of 
discretion.11 

                We review the trial court's procedural decisions for abuse of discretion.12 

                We review questions of law de novo.13 

IV.     DISCUSSION 

                Equitable     division    of  marital  assets   by   the  superior   court   involves    a 
three-step process.14      First, the superior court must determine what specific property is 

available for distribution by characterizing which assets are marital property and which 

        7       Dodson v. Dodson, 955 P.2d 902, 907 (Alaska 1998).
 

        8       Harrelson v. Harrelson, 932 P.2d 247, 250 (Alaska 1997).
 

        9       Elliott v. James, 977 P.2d 727, 730 (Alaska 1999). 
 

        10      Dragseth v. Dragseth, 210 P.3d 1206, 1208 (Alaska 2009).
 

        11      Odom   v.   Odom,   141   P.3d   324,   330   (Alaska   2006)   (citing  Chotiner   v.
 

Chotiner, 829 P.2d 829, 834-35 (Alaska 1992)). 

        12      Clemensen v. Providence Alaska Med. Ctr., 203 P.3d 1148, 1151 (Alaska 

2009). 

        13      Elliott, 977 P.2d at 730. 

        14       Wanberg v. Wanberg, 664 P.2d 568, 570 (Alaska 1983). 

                                                  -12-                                             6643
 

----------------------- Page 13-----------------------

are not.   Second, the court must determine the value of this property.15             Third, it must 

decide how an allocation can be made most equitably.16              On appeal, Teresa challenges 

the superior court's decisions with respect to each of these steps. 

        A.      Characterization 

                Teresa argues that the superior court abused its discretion in characterizing 

several items, including: her civil service retirement; Darren's tools; the debts in her 

name; and the Glassply boat, Jetcraft boat, and Pioneer stereo.              We conclude that the 

superior court did not abuse its discretion with respect to most of these items, and where 

it did, the error was harmless. 

                1.      Teresa's civil service retirement 

                Teresa argues that the superior court abused its discretion by including in 

the marital estate the retirement that she acquired in the ten years prior to the couple's 

legal marriage.     Darren responds that the superior court's inclusion of this premarital 

portion in the marital estate was proper because, although the legal marriage did not take 

place until ten years later, the couple began living together and sharing income in 1988. 

                Property acquired by a couple prior to marriage may be considered marital 
if the property was acquired during premarital cohabitation.17 The general rule is that 

courts divide property "acquired only during  marriage."18           But "so long as the parties do 

marry, the trial court is free to consider the parties' entire relationship, including any 

period(s)     of   premarital    cohabitation,     in   making     its  property    division    under 

        15      Id. 

        16      Id. 

        17      Chase v. Chase, 109 P.3d 942, 947 (Alaska 2005). 

        18      AS 25.24.160. 

                                                 -13-                                           6643
 

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AS   25.24.160(a)(4). . . ."19      And, relying on this language from Murray, we held   in 

Faulkner v. Goldfuss20        that the basis for determining the marital share of a spouse's 

military pension was "not necessarily limited to the period of the parties' marriage" and 
could include the period of cohabitation.21         We directed that "[i]f the superior court finds 

on remand that the parties indeed began cohabiting in October 1994, it should adjust the 
coverture period accordingly."22         We review a trial court's characterization of property 

as marital or separate for abuse of discretion.23 

                 It is undisputed that the couple had begun to cohabit by July 1, 1989, and 

that the couple later became legally married. In light of the evidence that the parties were 

an economic unit during their pre-marital cohabitation, the superior court had discretion 

to include in the marital estate property that was acquired during this period of premarital 

cohabitation.  We find no error in the superior court's characterization of this portion of 

Teresa's retirement. 

                 The    dissent   questions    the  propriety    of   affirming    the  superior    court's 

characterization of the portion of Teresa's retirement acquired during 1989-99, the period 

        19      Murray v. Murray, 788 P.2d 41, 42 (Alaska 1990). AS 25.24.160(a)(4) 

states that the court may provide "for the division between the parties of their property, 
including retirement benefits, whether joint or separate, acquired only during marriage, 
in a just manner and without regard to which of the parties is in fault; however, the court, 
in making the division, may invade the property, including retirement benefits, of either 
spouse acquired before marriage when the balancing of the equities between the parties 
requires it . . . ." 

        20       46 P.3d 993 (Alaska 2002). 

        21      Id. at 1002-03. 

        22      Id. 

        23      Dragseth v. Dragseth, 210 P.3d 1206, 1208 (Alaska 2009). 

                                                   -14-                                              6643
 

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when the parties lived together before marrying, without specific findings by the superior 

court to justify this characterization of otherwise-separate property.                   But we have not 
always required specific findings by the superior court.                In Faulkner v. Goldfuss,24 for 

example,      we    upheld    characterizing      property     acquired    during    cohabitation      before 

marriage as marital property without explicit factual findings about either (1) the parties' 

intent to treat the property as marital or (2) the need to treat the property as marital in 

order to do equity.  In that case we directed the superior court only to determine the 
period of cohabitation in determining what property was marital.25 

                 2.      The Glassply boat, the Jetcraft boat, and the Pioneer stereo 

                 Teresa   argues   that   if   the   superior   court   did   not   err   in   finding   that   the 

retirement   she   earned   in   the   period   of   premarital   cohabitation   was   marital,   then   the 

superior court did abuse its discretion by characterizing as Darren's separate property 

other items that were also acquired after the couple began to cohabit.                     Though it is not 

entirely clear which specific items of property Teresa thinks the superior court treated 

inconsistently, it appears that she is referring to those items on her spreadsheet that 

Darren did not include in the marital estate and that the court did not include in its 

findings: the Glassply boat, the Jetcraft boat, and the Pioneer stereo. 

                 While Teresa contends on appeal that these items were acquired during the 

ten-year period of premarital cohabitation, there was nothing before the superior court 

indicating      that   this   was     the   case.     Teresa     claims     that   the   superior     court's 

mischaracterization of these items resulted from its failure to appropriately consider her 

asset spreadsheet, but, in fact, her asset spreadsheet expressly characterized all of these 

items   as   premarital.     Thus,   it   appears   that   the   trial   court   not   only   considered   her 

         24      46 P.3d at 1003. 

         25      Id. 

                                                    -15-                                                  6643 

----------------------- Page 16-----------------------

spreadsheet,   but   adopted   her   position   that   these   items   were   not   acquired   during   the 

marital community.        At no point during the trial did Teresa revise her characterization 

of these items, nor did she make any mention of these items in her testimony or even 

suggest     that   any    of  these   items    were    acquired     during    premarital     cohabitation. 

Consequently, the superior court had no reason to believe that the Glassply boat, Jetcraft 

boat, and the Pioneer stereo should be treated in the same manner   as   Teresa's civil 

service retirement. 

                  In her appeal briefs, Teresa acknowledges that she characterized these 

items as premarital at trial, but she implies that she would not have done so if she had 

understood that assets acquired during premarital cohabitation could be included in the 

marital estate.    She states that by labeling the Glassply boat, Jetcraft boat, and Pioneer 

stereo "premarital," she merely intended to indicate that these items were acquired before 

the couple was legally married - not that they were acquired before the couple began 

to cohabit.    She implies that had she understood that assets acquired during premarital 

cohabitation could be included in the marital estate, she would have made a point of 

telling the trial judge that the couple purchased these items after 1989 so that it would 

consistently treat all assets acquired during that period. Although she does not make this 

point explicit, we understand Teresa to be arguing the superior court breached its duty 

to her as a pro se litigant by failing to ensure that she presented evidence as to precisely 

when these items were acquired. 

                 Although the superior court owes a special duty to pro se litigants, we have 
specifically   held   that   this   duty   generally26   does   not   involve   an   obligation   to   solicit 

        26       We   have   made   an   exception   to   this   rule   in   cases   involving   domestic 

violence. See Williams v. Barbee, 243 P.3d 995, 1004-05 (Alaska 2010);Parks v. Parks, 
214 P.3d 295, 301 (Alaska 2009). 

                                                   -16-                                                 6643 

----------------------- Page 17-----------------------

additional evidence from an unrepresented party.                In Forshee v. Forshee,27 a husband 

appearing pro se failed to offer convincing evidence as to the valuation of certain assets 
in his divorce trial.28     On appeal, he stated that he had not submitted more evidence at 

trial because, being pro se, he had not understood that his case would have been better 

served by presenting additional evidence; he argued that the superior court breached its 
duty to him by failing to solicit this additional evidence.29               We rejected his argument, 

holding   that   although   pleadings   of   pro   se   litigants   should   be   held   to   less   stringent 

standards than those of lawyers, and trial judges should take limited steps to mitigate the 

difficulty of representing oneself, a trial court may not compromise its impartiality by 

saving a litigant from the litigant's choice of a lawyer, including when a litigant chooses 
to represent himself.30 

                 In the present case, we similarly hold that the superior court had no duty to 

solicit additional information from Teresa - she bore sole responsibility to present all 

evidence that might be helpful to her case, and she must bear the consequences of her 

failure to do so.     The possibility that Teresa did not present this evidence because she 

was   confused   about   the   underlying   legal   concepts   does   not   change   this   conclusion: 

Requiring the superior court to inform pro se litigants of all the relevant substantive law 

would      put  a  trial  judge    in  the   precarious     position    of  acting   as   attorney    for  an 

unrepresented party, which is exactly what we sought to avoid   in  Forshee.                         This is 

especially true in the present case, where the record shows that even if Teresa did not 

learn   through   her   own   independent   research   that   assets   acquired   during   premarital 

        27       145 P.3d 492 (Alaska 2006). 

        28       Id. at 493. 

        29       Id. at 498. 

        30       Id. 

                                                    -17-                                               6643
 

----------------------- Page 18-----------------------

cohabitation may be included in the marital estate, the proceedings alone provided her 
with ample notice of that legal proposition.31          Thus, Teresa should have known to inform 

the superior court of any items that were acquired after the couple began to cohabit; any 

failure to do so was not caused by a breach of the trial court's duty, but by Teresa's own 

lack of attention and care in making her case.   Therefore, we affirm the superior court's 

finding that the Glassply boat, Jetcraft boat, and Pioneer stereo are not marital property. 

                 3.      Darren's tools 

                 Teresa     argues    that   the  superior    court    abused    its  discretion    by   not 

characterizing the tools acquired during premarital cohabitation as marital property.  She 

states that the superior court's valuation only accounts for the tools Darren acquired 

        31       Both Darren's trial brief and testimony made clear that he was arguing that 

items acquired prior to legal marriage should be included in the marital estate.                    Even a 
casual     review    of  Darren's     brief  and   testimony     would     have   told   Teresa    that  her 
understanding   of   marital   property   was   incomplete   and   that   a   revision   of   her   asset 
spreadsheet was warranted, but Teresa submitted the same asset spreadsheet at trial that 
she had submitted months earlier in discovery characterizing the Glassply boat, Jetcraft 
boat, and Pioneer stereo as premarital. 

                 Not   only  should     Teresa   have   been   aware   that   assets   acquired      during 
premarital cohabitation could be included in the marital estate, but a close examination 
of the record strongly suggests that - at least part of the way through the trial - she 
actually was aware of this proposition, and still did nothing to indicate to the court that 
these items were purchased after the couple began to cohabit.                     When the trial judge 
specifically   asked   Teresa   to   discuss   any   items   that   Darren   did   not   include   on   his 
spreadsheet that she felt should be included in the marital estate, she did not mention any 
of the items on her spreadsheet other than the "three Ford Broncos," which she alleged 
were acquired during the period of premarital cohabitation. Teresa's mention of the Ford 
Broncos   indicates   that,   at   least   by   this   point   in   her   testimony,   she   understood   that 
property     acquired     before    the   marriage    could    be   included     in  the   marital   estate. 
Nevertheless, she made no mention of the Jetcraft boat, Glassply boat, or Pioneer stereo 
-   none of which was included in the asset spreadsheet Darren submitted at trial - 
implicitly reiterating her apparent position that these items were not acquired during the 
life of the marital community. 

                                                    -18-                                              6643
 

----------------------- Page 19-----------------------

during the eight years the couple was married, but should have also included the tools 

acquired during the ten years of premarital cohabitation because the couple was sharing 

income during that time. 

                At trial, Darren testified that his valuation included all the tools acquired 

during the couple's cohabitation, both before and after they became legally married. 

Because the superior court adopted Darren's valuation, we infer that the superior court's 

valuation     actually did   include    the  tools  acquired    during   the  period   of  premarital 

cohabitation, just as Teresa argues it should have.           Therefore, we affirm the superior 

court's characterization of Darren's tools. 

                4.      Debts in Teresa's name 

                The parties disagreed about the characterization of certain debts that were 

listed in Teresa's name.       The superior court considered these debts in its findings and 

conclusion,     and   there   is  no  doubt    that  the  superior   court   assigned    Teresa    sole 

responsibility for such debts.  But the court's analysis of the disputed debts is somewhat 
ambiguous:32 It did not specifically explain whether it characterized the disputed debts 

as marital or separate, nor did it state how it resolved the factual dispute about when they 

were incurred.     How these debts are characterized - whether separate or marital - 

affects the net value of the estate and each party's share of the total estate.  Because the 

superior court included the disputed debts in its discussion of "other martial debts" and 

listed them on the spreadsheet of the marital estate, we conclude that the superior court 

characterized   these   debts   as   marital,   not   separate. Using   this   characterization,   we 

        32      The superior court acknowledged: "Although [Teresa] testified at trial as 

to what these debts were for, she stated that these debts were in her name alone.  She did 
claim that some of them were incurred for marital expenses.  Teresa did not provide any 
documentation showing how, when, or why such debts were incurred and she failed and 
refused to attend her deposition." 

                                                 -19-                                           6643
 

----------------------- Page 20-----------------------

calculate the total marital liabilities at $87,533.12, the net estate at $268,119.17, Darren's 
share of the total estate at 47.5% and Teresa's share of the marital estate at 52.5%.33 

Insofar as Teresa is arguing that the superior court mischaracterized the disputed debts 

as her separate property, we find no error because the court did not in fact characterize 

them as her separate property. 

               Teresa also seems to make another argument about the debt.   According to 

Teresa, credit records would have provided clear evidence that the disputed debts should 

not be assigned to her.   She argues that she did not have access to these records because 

Darren kept them locked in his house, and that because she was pro se, she did not know 

how to obtain these documents through discovery. Thus, we take her argument to be that 

the superior court had a duty to inform her of discovery procedures, and that its breach 

of this duty was the direct cause of the debts' mischaracterization.     We disagree. 

               As a preliminary matter, even accepting the facts as Teresa states them on 

appeal (i.e., that Darren kept the original credit records locked in his house), she does not 

explain why she could not have obtained duplicate records from her creditors. As Darren 

points out, even if the superior court did have a duty to help Teresa obtain the documents 

from Darren, it is not clear how its breach of this duty would have been a but-for cause 

of Teresa's failure to substantiate her claims in court - presumably, she could have 

obtained copies of the records directly from her creditors to substantiate her claims.  If 

       33      While the superior court's findings state that the marital debt assigned to 

Darren was $31,411, on the distribution spreadsheet the number intended to represent 
this same sum reads $21,661.39. Although this subtotal, as it appears on the spreadsheet, 
is clearly incorrect, the amounts representing the individual items of marital debt on the 
spreadsheet are correct, and when added together, give rise to the value stated in the 
superior court's findings of fact.   Thus, this error is harmless.  A similar typographical 
error appears in the spreadsheet cell listing total marital liabilities; it reads $77,783.85, 
whereas the properly calculated sum is $87,533.12.        This error is harmless because, as 
explained further in the text, the superior court's property division was equitable. 

                                             -20-                                        6643
 

----------------------- Page 21-----------------------

the debts were in fact mischaracterized due to a lack of documentary evidence in support 

of Teresa's position, it was the result of Teresa's failure to act, not of the court's failure 

to walk her through the discovery process. 

                 In any case, the superior court did not have a duty to help Teresa obtain her 
credit records from Darren.          We held in Kaiser v. Sakata34 that when a pro se litigant 

does   not   make   a   good   faith   effort   to   obtain   discovery   or   to   inform   the   court   of   her 

difficulties in obtaining discovery, a trial court is not obligated to assist her in requesting 
or moving to compel discovery.35             This holding applies to the present case.               There is 

nothing   in   the   record   indicating   that   Teresa   ever   requested   the   credit   records   from 
Darren36 or that she had any difficulty obtaining duplicate records from her creditors. 

There is also nothing in the record to indicate that Teresa alerted the trial court to her 

desire for these documents or to any attempts - failed or otherwise - that she made to 

obtain them.  Therefore, consistent with our holding in Kaiser, we hold that the superior 

court had no duty to Teresa with regard to discovery of her credit records. 

                 5.      Antiques/household furnishings 

                 The   superior   court   valued   the   entire   collection   of   antique   furniture   at 

$60,000,   finding   that   $45,000   of   the   collection   was   marital.     Teresa   argues   that   the 

superior court abused its discretion by finding that only $15,000 of the antique furniture 

was her separate property.          But she has failed to brief this issue adequately, citing no 

        34       40 P.3d 800 (Alaska 2002). 

        35       Id. at 804. 

        36       When testifying at trial as to the nature of the disputed debts, Teresa made 

no mention of her alleged attempts to retrieve the credit records from Darren.  If she had 
wanted to bring her claim of difficulty in obtaining the documents to the trial judge's 
attention, this would have been an opportune time to do so; yet, she made no mention of 
it. 

                                                     -21-                                               6643
 

----------------------- Page 22-----------------------

legal authority.  In these circumstances, even when pro se litigants are involved, we have 
declined to consider the argument.37 

        B.      Valuation 

                Teresa also argues that the superior court clearly erred in valuing several 

of the marital assets.      After a close examination of the record, we affirm the superior 

court's valuations. 

                1.      Teresa's civil service retirement 

                Teresa argues that the court clearly erred in adopting Darren's valuation of 

her retirement because his valuation was based on an expert's estimate rather than on her 

retirement's actual value.       Although Teresa did not provide proof of her retirement's 

actual value in discovery or at trial, she argues that she did give Darren's lawyer power 

of attorney to access her retirement records.            We understand her to be asserting that 

because Darren had access to her records, the court was obligated to use those records 

as the basis for its valuation, rather than the expert report that Darren submitted at trial. 

We hold that the superior court's reliance on Darren's expert report was not error. 

                 In discovery, Darren requested several times that Teresa provide proof of 

her retirement's actual value.        Teresa never provided this proof, even after the court 

issued an order to compel discovery. She also refused to attend the deposition where she 

was to testify about the value of her retirement.   Teresa stated in discovery and her trial 

brief   that   she   gave   Darren's   lawyer   power   of   attorney   so   that   he   could   access   her 

retirement records, but proof of this power of attorney does not appear anywhere in the 

        37      See A.H. v. W.P., 896 P.2d 240, 243 (Alaska 1995) (even   when pro se 

litigant   is   involved,   argument   is   waived   when   party   "provides   no   citation   of   legal 
authority" and fails to provide legal theory for her argument).  See also Gates v. City of 
Tenakee Springs, 822 P.2d 455, 460 (Alaska1991) (matters addressed "only cursorily" 
by pro se litigant treated as abandoned by supreme court). 

                                                  -22-                                             6643
 

----------------------- Page 23-----------------------

record.   At trial, Darren presented expert Edwin Schilling's report, which estimated the 

value of the marital portion of Teresa's retirement to be $139,532.                  Although Teresa 

questioned the accuracy of the expert's estimate in her trial testimony, she did not offer 

an alternative valuation. 

                Teresa's failure to provide any proof of her retirement's true value both in 

discovery and at trial makes it difficult for her to challenge the court's findings now. 

Even if Teresa actually gave Darren's lawyer power of attorney to access her retirement 

records - an allegation for which she offers no proof -   this would not have obligated 

Darren or the court to use these records in determining the retirement's value.  If Teresa 

wanted the valuation to be based on the true value of her retirement, she should have 
provided proof of its true value in discovery and at trial.38           Her failure to do so left the 

superior   court   with   no   alternative   but   to   adopt   the   expert's   estimate. Because   the 
valuation of marital assets is reviewed for clear error39 and the superior court's finding 

unquestionably had support in the record, we affirm the superior court's valuation of the 

marital portion of Teresa's retirement. 

                2.      Darren's tools 

                Next, Teresa argues that even if the superior court did correctly include all 

of the tools acquired during the life of the marital community - as we have concluded 

it did - it grossly undervalued them. 

        38      In her reply brief, Teresa implies that she was not able to offer proof of the 

actual value of her retirement because the government sent the information to her old 
address.    But this does not explain why she could not obtain a copy of her retirement 
records - she could have simply contacted the appropriate government office and told 
it to send the records to her new address. 

        39      Krize v. Krize, 145 P.3d 481, 487 (Alaska 2006). 

                                                  -23-                                             6643
 

----------------------- Page 24-----------------------

                As we discussed above, the superior court adopted Darren's valuation of 

the tools, which he had based on his own receipts and the opinions of professional tool 

dealers.  While Teresa also offered valuations of the tools at several points in the record, 

her estimates varied greatly from one valuation to the next: from $20,000 to $30,000, to 

well over $60,000. She did not explain why the valuations varied so dramatically. Thus, 

while   Darren   offered   a   single   consistent   valuation,   Teresa   offered   several   different 

estimates, never acknowledging or explaining the differences among them. 

                A factual determination is clearly erroneous if it is unsupported by the 

record, or if we   are   left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been 
made.40    The superior court based its valuation on the estimate Darren had provided, 

which constitutes sufficient support in the record.  Finding no clear error, we affirm the 

superior court's valuation. 

                3.      The antiques/household furnishings 

                In addition to arguing that the superior court mischaracterized the marital 

portion of the antiques, Teresa suggests that the court clearly erred by overvaluing the 

collection     at  $60,000.    On    appeal,   Teresa    states  that  while    all  of  the  household 

furnishings together were worth $60,000, the antiques alone were worth only a fraction 

of that. After examining the record, we conclude that Teresa's argument arises out of her 

misunderstanding of the superior court's finding, and in fact, the superior court did adopt 

the valuation that she proposed. 

                At trial, Darren assigned a $60,000 value to a category of items that he 

labeled "Antique Furniture."  On Teresa's asset spreadsheet and in her pretrial brief, she 

assigned the same value to a category of items she labeled "Household Furniture and 

Antiques."  At no point did Teresa estimate the value of the antiques alone.  On appeal, 

        40      Moffitt v. Moffitt, 749 P.2d 343, 348 (Alaska 1988). 

                                                  -24-                                               6643 

----------------------- Page 25-----------------------

Teresa argues that the superior court overvalued the "Antique Furniture" at $60,000, 

when that value actually applied to the entirety of household furniture. 

                While Teresa's objection appears to have merit at first glance, a closer look 

suggests that the superior court actually did adopt the valuation Teresa proposed at trial. 

In the court's findings of fact, "Antique Furniture" is the only category of household 

furnishings mentioned. In its distribution spreadsheet, no other furnishings are itemized, 

valued, or awarded.       Thus, it does not appear that the superior court intended "Antique 

Furniture" to represent a subset of the home furnishings, as Teresa believes, but rather, 

the complete set of marital home furnishings, regardless of its truly antique character. 

It appears that the superior court used the "antique furniture" label but adopted Darren's 

undisputed testimony that "[e]verything in the house is antique except for the bed and 

computer desk."  This undisputed testimony suggests that the category of assets Darren 

labeled   "antique   furniture"   was   essentially   the   same   category   of   assets   that   Teresa 

labeled "Household Furniture and Antiques."               The superior court's valuation of the 

"Antique Furniture" at $60,000 was, then, almost completely consistent with Teresa's 

valuation of the "Household Furniture and Antiques." As a result, we conclude that her 

argument on this point is misplaced.  Moreover, because we review valuation for clear 
error,41 and the court's valuation was at the very least supported by the estimate Darren 

provided, we affirm the superior court's valuation. 

                4.      The EMC motorhome 

                The superior court awarded the 1989 EMC motorhome to Teresa, valuing 

it as an asset worth $1,670.67.       Teresa argues that the superior court clearly erred in its 

valuation by completely failing to consider the outstanding debt on the motorhome. 

        41      Krize, 145 P.3d at 487. 

                                                  -25-                                              6643 

----------------------- Page 26-----------------------

                 It is clear, however, that the superior court considered the outstanding debt 

in   making   its   valuation.   At   trial,   Darren   estimated   that   the   motorhome   was   worth 

$15,000, but that due to the outstanding $14,329.33 on the loan, the net value was a mere 

$670.67.      In   her   testimony   at   trial,   Teresa   stated   that   she   did   not   dispute   Darren's 

estimation of the motorhome's net value, and agreed that given the outstanding loan, its 

net worth was approximately $600.             Yet, in spite of her earlier testimony, Teresa now 

argues that the court's positive valuation of the motorhome indicates that it neglected to 

consider the outstanding debt.  But the court's valuation of the motorhome at $1,670.67 

- many thousands of dollars less than the $15,000 market value that Darren estimated 

and   Teresa   did   not   dispute   -   indicates   that   the   court   did,   in   fact,   consider   that   a 

significant amount of the loan remained unpaid.              Thus, the superior court did not err in 
the way Teresa argues it did.42 

                 5.      The Lake Louise property 

                 Teresa states that although she agrees that the lots carry a gross value of 

$52,900 - which is the combined assessed value of the lots - she believes that the 

cabin on lot 2 was undervalued, and asserts that the true value is closer to $40,000.  We 

understand Teresa to be arguing that the court should have valued the cabin at more than 

        42       The court may have erred in another manner.                As stated above, Darren 

estimated   that   the   motorhome   was   worth   $15,000,   but   that   due   to   an   outstanding 
$14,329.33 on the loan used to purchased the motorhome, the net value of the vehicle 
was $670.67.       But the superior court valued the motorhome at $1,670.67 - exactly 
$1,000 in excess of the undisputed estimate.   In the absence of any explanation for this 
higher value, the digital similarity between Darren's estimate and the superior court's 
valuation     suggests    typographical      error.   Nonetheless,      because    Teresa    waived     this 
argument by not raising it on appeal, we affirm the superior court's valuation. See Gates 
v.  City   of   Tenakee   Springs,   822   P.2d   455,   460   (Alaska   1991)   (claims   which   were 
addressed      in  appellant's    brief  only    cursorily   or  not   addressed     at  all  are  deemed 
abandoned). 

                                                   -26-                                              6643
 

----------------------- Page 27-----------------------

the cost of the "cabin kit" because the cabin cost substantially more to build than the cost 

of the kit.  Thus, she argues that the present value of the cabin is greater than simply the 

cost   of   the   materials   that   went   into   it. She   also   points   out   that   no   appraisal   of   the 

property was done, and that Darren presented no evidence to the court supporting his 

valuation. 

                 This argument might be persuasive if Teresa had presented any evidence 

at trial of the cabin's present value, but she did not.              In fact, the asset spreadsheet she 

submitted as an exhibit at trial lists only the assessed value of the land and does not add 

any   value   for   the   cabin.  Also,   when   questioned   as   to   whether   she   agreed   with   the 

valuation of the lots at trial, she only responded "I agree completely with the valuation 

of the . . . lots."  Although it may be true that an assessment would have shown a higher 

present value for the cabin, Teresa waived this argument by failing to make it below or 
to present any conflicting valuation evidence.43 

                 6.      The Landingcraft boat 

                 The superior court valued the couple's Landingcraft boat at $10,000 and 

awarded it to Darren.        Teresa argues that the superior court clearly erred by severely 

undervaluing the boat, and that it should have been valued at close to $35,000.                       After 

examining the record, we conclude that the superior court did not clearly err. 

                 On his asset spreadsheet, Darren valued the Landingcraft at $10,000.  In her 

response   to   Darren's   first   request   for   production,   Teresa   valued   the   Landingcraft   at 

$30,000.      Then,     in   her  reply   to  Darren's     trial  brief,  she   stated   that  Darren    had 

"completely       undervalued"       the  Landingcraft      when     he  said   it  was   worth    $10,000, 

estimating that "[i]f it was sold tomorrow it would sell for at least $80,000."   But the last 

        43       See D.H. Blattner & Sons, Inc. v. N.M. Rothschild & Sons, Ltd., 55 P.3d 37, 

54 n.69 (Alaska 2002) (issues not raised in trial court are waived on appeal except where 
plain error has occurred). 

                                                    -27-                                                 6643 

----------------------- Page 28-----------------------

valuation Teresa submitted to the court appeared to adopt Darren's valuation, stating the 

Landingcraft was worth $10,000.            When the trial judge asked Teresa if she disputed 

Darren's valuation of any of the boats, Teresa made no mention of the Landingcraft, 

once again implying that she agreed with Darren's valuation. 
                We review the valuation of marital assets for clear error.44              Because the 

superior court's valuation was supported by both Darren and Teresa's testimony, we 

hold that the superior court did not clearly err in valuing the Landingcraft at $10,000. 

        C.      Equitable Distribution 

                Teresa also argues that the superior court acted inconsistently with the 

principles of equitable distribution set out by AS 25.24.160(a)(4) in deciding how to 

allocate   the   marital   estate.  We   conclude   that   the   superior   court   did   not   abuse   its 

discretion in making its allocation determinations. 

                1.      The EMC motorhome 

                Teresa     suggests   that  the   superior   court   acted  inconsistently     with   the 

principles   of   equitable   division   when   it   awarded   the   motorhome   to   her,   rather   than 

Darren.  She argues that it is clearly unjust for her to bear the burden of the motorhome's 

outstanding   debt   when   her   financial   situation   makes   it   impossible   for   her   to   make 

payments. 

                Alaska's divorce statute provides that the division of property must fairly 
allocate the economic effect of divorce, considering numerous factors.45               We review the 

        44      Krize, 145 P.3d at 487. 

        45      AS 25.24.160(a)(4).       These factors include: 

                (A) the length of the marriage and station in life of the parties
 
                during the marriage;
 
                (B) the age and health of the parties; 
                                                                                        (continued...) 

                                                  -28-                                            6643
 

----------------------- Page 29-----------------------

equitable allocation of property under an abuse of discretion standard46 and will not 

reverse unless the division is clearly unjust.47 

                Although it is clear from her briefing that Teresa is confused on this point, 

the motorhome is not a liability, but an asset.  Even if it is actually worth $1,000 less than 
the superior court found, which may be the case,48 the motorhome still has a positive net 

value.   Even if she now disagrees with her earlier testimony that the motorhome has a 

positive   net   value,   by   explicitly   testifying   at   trial   that   she   did   not   dispute   Darren's 

valuation and never revising this statement, she waived her right to raise this issue on 
appeal.49    There is nothing in the record to indicate how awarding the motorhome to 

Teresa makes her financial situation more dire.              If Teresa is unable to make further 

payments on the loan, she can re-sell the motorhome; she need not be burdened with 

        45      (...continued) 

                (C) the earning capacity of the parties, . . . 
                (D) the financial condition of the parties, . . . 
                (E) the conduct of the parties, including whether there has 
                been unreasonable depletion of marital assets; 
                (F) the desirability of awarding the family home, . . . 
                (G) the circumstances and necessities of each party; 
                (H) the time and   manner of acquisition of the property in 
                question; and 
                (I) the income-producing capacity of the property and the 
                value of the property at the time of division. 

        46      Dragseth v. Dragseth, 210 P.3d 1206, 1208 (Alaska 2009). 

        47      Harrelson v. Harrelson, 932 P.2d 247, 250 (Alaska 1997). 

        48      See supra note 41. 

        49      See D.H. Blattner & Sons, Inc. v. N.M. Rothschild & Sons, Ltd., 55 P.3d 37, 

54 n. 69 (Alaska 2002) (issues not raised in trial court are waived on appeal except where 
plain error has occurred). 

                                                  -29-                                             6643
 

----------------------- Page 30-----------------------

paying the remaining debt.   Therefore, we hold that the superior court did not abuse its 

discretion in awarding Teresa the motorhome. 

                2.      The Grayling boat 

                Next, Teresa argues that the superior court abused its discretion in awarding 

the   Grayling   boat   to   Darren.    Darren   responds   that,   in   accordance   with   the   law   of 

equitable     division,   the  court   properly   considered     the  needs    of  the  parties  -    and 

specifically, Darren's need for the Grayling in his water taxi business - in awarding the 

Grayling to Darren.       We agree with Darren and affirm the superior court's decision. 

                Throughout the proceedings, each party presented reasons why it should 

be   awarded the Grayling.         In her response to interrogatories, Teresa stated that   she 

wanted the boat because she had an opportunity to use it for employment.   However, in 

her reply to Darren's trial brief, she stated that she wanted the Grayling because she 

planned to live on Lake Louise, and would "need a large boat to travel safely on such a 

large body of water."  When Teresa testified at trial, the judge told her that he needed to 

know why she wanted the Grayling so he could take her reasons into account when 

making a fair and equitable allocation of the assets. Teresa simply responded:  "Because 

out of the five boats, that is the one that I want.  [To p]ut it bluntly."  At no point during 

the trial did Teresa reiterate or elaborate upon any plans to use the Grayling in business. 

                Darren,   on   the   other   hand,   provided   the   superior   court   with   a   detailed 

account of his intentions to use the Grayling in the water taxi business he was planning 

to run on Lake Louise.   In his pretrial brief, Darren stated that prior to the separation, he 

had begun taking steps toward establishing a water taxi and freighting business.                  In his 

trial testimony, both Darren and Teresa explained that the Grayling was purchased for 

use in that business.     At trial, Darren testified that he still intended to use the Grayling 

in running the water taxi business and that he already had an agreement with Hope 

Cottage to run their tours.       In its findings, the superior court made clear that Darren's 

                                                  -30-                                             6643
 

----------------------- Page 31-----------------------

professional need for the Grayling was the central factor in its decision to award the boat 

to him, rather than to Teresa. 

                 Under     AS   25.24.160(a)(4)(G),        in  deciding    how    to  equitably    allocate 

property, the superior court considers a variety of factors, including the "circumstances 
and necessities of each party."50         In awarding the boat to Darren, the court appears to 

have      determined       that   Darren's      professional      demands       outweighed        Teresa's 

transportational needs.       There is nothing in the record to indicate that the court abused 

its   discretion   or   that   the   allocation   of   the   Grayling  to  Darren   was   clearly   unjust. 

Therefore, we affirm the superior court's decision. 

                 3.      Overall distribution 

                 Finally, Teresa argues that the superior court abused its discretion in its 

overall   distribution   of   the   marital   estate.  Specifically,   she   argues   that   her   strained 

financial   circumstances       and   Darren's     relative  financial   security    render   the   court's 
decision to award her only 51%51            of the net assets clearly unjust.        In presenting this 

argument, Teresa emphasizes that she lost her job due to medical reasons, implying that 

the role her injuries continue to play in her unemployment warranted a greater division 

of the assets in her favor. 

                 Alaska courts favor an equal, 50/50 division of marital property, and such 
a division is presumptively valid.52           Teresa is correct that the factors the court must 

consider in dividing the marital estate under AS 25.24.160(a)(4) include the station in 

life of the parties during marriage, the age and health of the parties, the earning capacity 

        50       AS 25.24.160(a)(4). 

        51       We have calculated the percentage awarded to Teresa by the court to be 

52.5%.  See supra note 32 and accompanying text. 

        52      Elliott v. James, 977 P.2d 727, 730 (Alaska 1999). 

                                                   -31-                                              6643
 

----------------------- Page 32-----------------------

of the parties, and the financial condition of the parties.   But although the facts as Teresa 

states them on appeal may have warranted awarding her a greater share of the marital 

assets under the statute, Teresa failed to offer this evidence before the superior court and 

never argued that she should be awarded more than 50% of the marital estate in the 

proceedings below. 

               Teresa did state in her trial brief that she had to leave work in August 2005 

"due to injuries received at work," but at no point in the record did she suggest that these 

injuries continued to prevent her from finding employment. In fact, Teresa stated at least 

three separate times during discovery that, while she was dealing with a short-term ankle 

injury, she did not have a disease or mental defect that would affect her ability to earn 

a living in the foreseeable future; she implied that she would be able to work again as 

soon as the injury healed.    Although Teresa did briefly testify to the fact that she was 

currently unemployed, she did not suggest that she would be unable to find a job in the 

future.  Rather, her testimony that she had experienced brief intermittent periods of 

unemployment in the past suggested that her current situation was not out of the ordinary 

and that she was likely to find employment in the near future.  Finally, while Teresa now 

states that Darren makes over $70,000 a year, she presented no evidence of his current 

income at trial - in fact, she testified that Darren also experienced an extended period 

of unemployment as recently as 2005. 

               Because our review is restricted to the facts in the record, we cannot say 

that the superior court's decision to award Teresa 52.5% of the estate was clearly unjust. 

While she did inform the court that she was currently unemployed, she did not present 

any evidence suggesting that Darren was in a significantly better financial situation, nor 

did she indicate that she expected her unemployment to continue indefinitely. Therefore, 

we affirm the superior court's overall division of the marital estate. 

       D.       Other Issues 

                                             -32-                                        6643
 

----------------------- Page 33-----------------------

                Finally, Teresa raises several issues on appeal that do not directly relate to 

the three-step property division process. We conclude that none of these issues warrants 

a remand. 

                1.      The house 

                Teresa argues that the superior court erred in finding her responsible for the 

marital home going into foreclosure.          It is unclear what relief Teresa seeks, even if we 

were to agree   with her.      The house went to Darren in the property distribution, but 

because   Teresa   had   already   quitclaimed   the   house   to   Darren,   he   would   have   been 

awarded the house regardless.         In any case, there is no reason to believe that the court 

clearly erred in making this finding. Teresa testified that the mortgage holder told her 

that she did not have to pay the mortgage payments because it was in "work out."  She 

argued that Darren did not send her enough money to pay the mortgage, and that she 

could not pay the mortgage because she was experiencing a period of unemployment due 

to injury.   But Darren testified that he sent her three to four thousand dollars a month 

during that time period to pay bills, and that she simply failed to pay the mortgage. 
Because it is within the superior court's discretion to judge the credibility of witnesses,53 

we hold that the superior court did not clearly err in finding Teresa responsible for the 

marital home going into foreclosure. 

                2.      $4,500 

                Teresa's argument concerning the $4,500 is not entirely clear, but we take 

her to be arguing that she should not have been credited with the $4,500 the superior 

court found she withdrew from one of the parties' joint accounts.                 In fact, it does not 

appear   that the   trial court actually   did   attribute   those   funds   to   her.  Therefore,   we 

        53      Pam R. v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs., 185 P.3d 67, 71 (Alaska 

2008). 

                                                  -33-                                              6643 

----------------------- Page 34-----------------------

conclude   that   her   argument   is   based   on   a   misunderstanding   of   the   superior   court's 

findings. Accordingly, we affirm. 

                3.      Teresa's deposition 

                Finally, Teresa seems to offer two distinct arguments with respect to her 

deposition.  First, she argues that the superior court erred by not compelling her to testify 

at her deposition.     Second, and somewhat inconsistently, she argues that because her 

appearance at the deposition would have been futile, unnecessary, and burdensome, she 

should   not   have   had   to   attend,   and   consequently,   it   was   improper   for   the   court   to 

consider her failure to attend in making its findings. 
                We review the trial court's procedural decisions for abuse of discretion.54 

With respect to Teresa's first argument, we hold that the superior court did not abuse its 

discretion.    Contrary to Teresa's argument on appeal, the superior court attempted to 

compel her to attend the deposition when it issued a subpoena duces tecum.  According 

to the superior court's findings - which Teresa does not dispute   on   appeal - she 

"refused" to attend.      Thus, as Darren argues, it is difficult to determine what Teresa 

believes the superior court should have done differently.  The superior court did what it 

could to compel her attendance by issuing the subpoena.                 The superior court did not 

abuse its discretion. 

                We are also unpersuaded by Teresa's second argument that the superior 

court erred by taking her failure to attend the deposition into account when making its 

findings concerning disputed debts.          It is within the trial court's discretion to judge the 
credibility of witnesses and to weigh conflicting evidence.55               The trial court decides 

        54      Clemensen v. Providence Alaska Med. Ctr., 203 P.3d 1148, 1151 (Alaska 

2009). 

        55      Pam R., 185 P.3d at 71 (Alaska 2008). 

                                                  -34-                                              6643 

----------------------- Page 35-----------------------

matters of credibility on a case-by-case basis and considers all the relevant circumstances 
including the demeanor of the witnesses and conflicting testimony.56                Her failure to 

attend the deposition where she was to be questioned about the disputed debts left the 

court with little evidence supporting her position. Moreover, a witness's refusal to attend 

the deposition in which she was to defend her otherwise unsubstantiated claims is a 

circumstance   that   is   highly   relevant   to   her   credibility   as   a   witness. Therefore,   we 

conclude that the superior court did not abuse its discretion in its handling of Teresa's 

deposition. 

 V.     CONCLUSION 

               We AFFIRM the judgment of the superior court in all respects. 

        56     McDanold v. McDanold, 718 P.2d 467, 469 (Alaska 1986). 

                                                -35-                                            6643 

----------------------- Page 36-----------------------

  CHRISTEN, Justice, dissenting in part. 

                 Because the superior court did not make findings explaining why it treated 

 Teresa's   separate   property   as   marital,   I   respectfully   dissent   from   the   portion   of   the 

 court's   decision   that   affirms   the   characterization   of   Teresa's   pre-marital   retirement 

 benefit. 

                 As the court's decision acknowledges, "the general rule is that courts divide 

 property 'acquired only during the marriage.' "   But today's decision concludes that, in 

 this case, the superior court "had discretion to include in the marital estate property that 

 was acquired during [a] period of premarital cohabitation."                  I agree that the superior 

 court has some discretion to characterize property acquired before marriage as marital 

 property, but that discretion is not unfettered. Here, the superior court neglected to apply 

 the statutory presumption that pre-marital property is separate property and made no 

 findings    to  suggest    that   its  invasion   of  pre-marital     property    was   warranted     by   a 

 "balancing of the equities."       This was contrary to our case law and AS 25.24.160. 

                 We have long applied the rule that "one spouse's separate property . . . 

 should not be deemed a marital asset available for division unless the court specifically 

finds   that   a   balancing   of   the   equities   between   the   parties   requires   invasion   of   the 

 premarital   holding."1      Without   such   a   finding,   a   superior   court   does   not   have   the 

         1       Brooks v. Brooks, 733 P.2d 1044, 1053 (Alaska 1987) (quoting Carlson v. 

 Carlson, 722 P.2d 222, 224 (Alaska 1986)) (emphasis added) (internal quotation marks 
 omitted);  see     also   Harrelson     v.  Harrelson,    932    P.2d   247,   250-51     (Alaska    1997) 
 (remanding superior court's characterization of pre-marital property as marital because 
 court    did   not  make     "the   proper    property    distinction    mandated      by  Murray      and 
 AS   25.24.160(a)(4).");      Cox   v.   Cox,   882   P.2d   909,   915   (Alaska   1994)   (remanding 
 because superior court's findings failed to adequately distinguish between pre-marital 
 and    marital   property);   Rhodes      v.  Rhodes,     867   P.2d    802,   804-05     (Alaska    1994) 
 (remanding because superior court did not make "adequate findings on whether [disputed 
                                                                                            (continued...) 

                                                    -36-                                              6643
 

----------------------- Page 37-----------------------

discretion to invade pre-marital assets.2      We applied this rule to property acquired by one 

spouse   during   a   period   of   pre-marital   cohabitation   in Murray   v.   Murray,   where   we 

determined that the superior court must "assess whether the equities require invasion of 

separate assets under AS 25.24.160(a)(4); and if so . . . enter explicit findings to that 

effect."3  This case law is faithful to the plain language of AS 25.24.160(a)(4), which 

only permits a superior court to "invade the property . . . of either spouse acquired before 

marriage when the balancing of the equities between the parties requires it." 

                Our ruling in Faulkner v. Goldfuss4 was also consistent with this rule of 

law.   Today's decision implies that Faulkner somehow dispensed with the requirement 

that   the  superior   court   expressly    balance   the  equities   before   invading    pre-marital 

property,   but   nowhere   in  Faulkner  did   we   explicitly   or   implicitly   overrule Murray. 

Faulkner quoted Murray for the proposition that "the trial court is free to consider the 

parties' entire relationship, including any period(s) of premarital cohabitation,"5 and 

upheld     the  superior   court's   determination     that  a  retirement   benefit   earned   during 

        1       (...continued) 

property   was]   marital   or   separate   property.");  Murray   v.   Murray,   788   P.2d   41,   42 
(Alaska 1990) (requiring "explicit finding" that balancing of equity favors division of 
pre-marital property). 

        2       Brooks, 733 P.2d at 1053. 

        3       788 P.2d at 42 (emphasis added); see also Harrelson, 932 P.2d at 250-51 

(remanding superior court's unexplained characterization of property acquired during 
pre-marital cohabitation as marital property). 

        4       46 P.3d 993 (Alaska 2002). 

        5       Id. at 1002-03 (quoting Murray, 788 P.2d at 42). 

                                                 -37-                                            6643
 

----------------------- Page 38-----------------------

pre-marital cohabitation was marital property.6              Faulkner did not specifically state that 

the superior court had balanced the equities before invading pre-marital property, but 

nothing   in   the   opinion   suggests   that   we   intended   to   abrogate   the   longstanding   rule 

established by the statute and our case law. 

                 We have applied and expressly reaffirmed this rule in multiple decisions 

since  Faulkner.        For   example,   in  Chase   v.   Chase   we   upheld   the   superior   court's 

characterization of assets acquired during pre-marital cohabitation as marital property 

because the superior court made specific findings supporting its invasion of separate 

            7 
property.     The superior court identified equitable considerations - such as the use of 

a pre-marital piece of property as the family home and one spouse's unpaid work in the 

home   -   to   justify   its   invasion   of   pre-marital   property;   we   affirmed   this   invasion 

"[b]ecause the decision to categorize the property as marital [was] sufficiently supported 

by the superior court's findings. . . ."8       Our decision in Chase demonstrates that while "a 

'talismanic' reference toMurray or a 'formalistic invocation' of particular language " is 

not   required,9    we   do   require  some  findings   demonstrating   the   propriety   of   invading 

         6       Id. 

         7       109 P.3d 942, 947-49 (Alaska 2005). 

         8       Id. at 947. 

         9       Harrelson, 932 P.2d at 251 n.5. 

                                                     -38-                                               6643
 

----------------------- Page 39-----------------------

pre-marital      property.10    We     have   also   explicitly   affirmed     this  rule,  as  applied    to 

pre-marital property generally,11 in multiple cases subsequent to Faulkner.12 

         10      Chase, 109 P.3d at 947-48 (identifying trial court findings on equitable 

considerations); see   also Abood v. Abood, 119 P.3d 980, 988 (Alaska 2005) (citing 
Murray  and   ruling   that superior court could properly consider period of pre-marital 
cohabitation "as long as the trial court recognized that the   home was originally . . . 
separate property").  Today's decision cites Faulkner for the proposition that we do not 
require "explicit factual findings about either (1) the parties' intent to treat the property 
as marital or (2) the need to treat the property as marital in order to do equity."                 But as 
noted, our case law does not establish a rule requiring enumerated factors to be explicitly 
considered or specific language to be invoked.  Harrelson, 932 P.2d at 251 n.5.  What 
we do require is that the superior court acknowledge that it is invading separate property 
and make findings of fact to support the invasion. See Abood, 119 P.3d at 988. Faulkner 
did not dispense with this requirement. 

         11      To the extent that today's decision draws a distinction between separate 

property   acquired   during   pre-marital   cohabitation   and   all   other   pre-marital   separate 
property, I find this distinction unpersuasive.            Alaska does not recognize common law 
marriage, and Alaska law is not premised on the assumption that all property acquired 
during   pre-marital   cohabitation   should   be   considered   marital   property.           Like   other 
property acquired by one spouse prior to marriage, property acquired during pre-marital 
cohabitation   is   presumptively   separate   property;   it   may   be   characterized   as   marital 
property, but only if the superior court makes findings justifying the invasion.  Murray, 
788   P.2d   at   42.   Neither   the   statute   nor   the   case   law   singles   out   separate   property 
acquired during cohabitation as unique, and today's decision does not articulate why it 
should be treated any differently. 

         12      See, e.g., Barnett v. Barnett, 238 P.3d 594, 600 (Alaska 2010) ("property 

acquired before the marriage . . . should not be treated as part of the marital estate . . . 
unless the court specifically finds that balancing of the equities requires invasion of the 
premarital holding."); Rodvik v. Rodvik, 151 P.3d 338, 350 (Alaska 2006) (noting that 
"a   decision   to   invade   separate   property   must   be   accompanied   by   specific   findings 
justifying the invasion.");  Odom v. Odom, 141 P.3d 324, 340 (Alaska 2006) ("decision 
to invade separate property may be undertaken only after the trial court has attempted to 
use the marital estate to balance the equities") (internal quotations omitted). 

                                                    -39-                                              6643
 

----------------------- Page 40-----------------------

                It is not disputed that ten years of Teresa's retirement benefit accrued after 

the   parties   began   living   together,   but   today's   decision   states   "[t]he   superior   court 

characterized the portion of Teresa's civil service retirement that she earned in the ten 

years of cohabitation preceding the couple's legal marriage as part of the marital estate." 

In fact, the superior court did not find that marital property began to accrue ten years 

before the parties married (when Teresa's divorce from her previous husband became 

final).  Nor did the court explain why it might have been appropriate to deem assets 

acquired after that date to be marital.         Instead, the superior court's findings reflect that 

it adopted Darren's expert's valuation of Teresa's retirement. Not surprisingly, Darren's 

expert valued Teresa's retirement in the way that was most favorable to Darren:  he 

assumed that the marital estate began to accrue immediately after Teresa's divorce from 

her previous husband became final.           The superior court adopted the following finding 

from Darren's proposed findings of fact: 

                The marital portion of her retirement has been calculated to 
                be    worth    $139,532.     This    valuation     is  based   upon    the 
                assumption       that   the  marital    interest   in  such   retirement 
                started accruing on July 1, 1989 when the parties were living 
                together.    Teresa agreed to the valuation of her retirement.13 

                The assumption made by Darren's expert was not consistent with Alaska 

law; it was consistent with the valuation of the marital portion of Teresa's asset in a way 

that   was   most   beneficial   to   Darren.  Tellingly,   even   Darren   does   not   argue   that   the 

superior court found the marital estate began to accrue once the parties began living 

together.   Darren argued on appeal that the superior court's characterization of this asset 

was either a sanction for Teresa's failure to attend her deposition, or that the inclusion 

of the pre-marital portion of Teresa's retirement was justifiable because Teresa caused 

        13      Emphasis added. 

                                                   -40-                                               6643 

----------------------- Page 41-----------------------

a dissipation of the marital estate by allowing the parties' home to go into foreclosure or 

by   failing   to   winterize   the   parties'   motor   home. None   of   these   theories   withstand 

scrutiny. The superior court did not find that Teresa dissipated the marital estate; it made 

no findings or conclusions that suggest it intended to sanction Teresa by invading her 

separate property; and it did not make any findings about responsibility for the marital 

home going into foreclosure.         The superior court simply treated Teresa's pre-marital 

asset as a marital asset.      No balancing of the equities took place; no explanation was 

provided for the invasion of Teresa's pre-marital property. 

                Today's decision speculates that the superior court relied on testimony 

describing the parties' pre-marital cohabitation to treat Teresa's separate property as 

marital, and asserts that this testimony supports the superior court's "implicit finding" 

that the balancing of the equities justified invading Teresa's retirement.   But it is not this 
court's role to guess a superior court's reasons for invading pre-marital property.14              The 

Murray     rule   provided    us  with   a  clear  record   on   appeal   setting  out   the  equitable 
considerations   supporting   a   superior   court's   invasion   of   pre-marital   property.15     In 

contrast,    today's   decision    speculates    that  the  superior   court   considered    testimony 

regarding the character of the parties' pre-marital cohabitation; we have no substantive 

indication that the court in fact relied on this testimony in invading pre-marital property. 

And if the superior court instead determined that separate property acquired during pre- 

marital cohabitation was presumptively marital, it abused its discretion. We have no way 

        14      See   Borchgrevink   v.   Borchgrevink,   941   P.2d   132,   143   (Alaska   1997) 

("[T]he role of the appellate court in the judge-tried case is to review only what the trial 
court has found, not what the trial court might have found."). 

        15      Murray, 788 P.2d at 42. 

                                                  -41-                                              6643 

----------------------- Page 42-----------------------

of knowing which of these rationales motivated the superior court's characterization, and 
this uncertainty frustrates effective appellate review.16 

                 Another troubling consequence of the decision issued today is that it gives 

no guidance to litigants, practitioners, or superior court judges about when pre-marital 

assets may be invaded.         In my view, it is inherently unfair to leave litigants guessing 

about what ground rules will be applied by the superior court when marital assets are 

divided. Experience tells us that uncertainty about the law hinders settlement efforts and 

increases litigation costs. 

                 Because the superior court's findings suggest that the statutory presumption 

regarding pre-marital property was reversed in this case, and because the findings give 

no indication of why Teresa's pre-marital retirement was treated as a marital asset, I 

would   reverse   this   part   of   the   superior   court's   decision   and   remand   for   additional 

findings on the propriety of invading Teresa's pre-marital retirement benefit. 

        16       Our case law reveals that the failure to distinguish between cohabitation and 

marriage can derail appellate review, causing unnecessary expense and delay for the 
parties.  In Harrelson v. Harrelson, we remanded for additional findings of fact because 
the superior court committed clear error by finding that the parties had been married for 
eight    years,   a  period   that   included    a  few   years    during   which     they   were   merely 
cohabitants.  932 P.2d 247, 250-51 (Alaska 1997).  We noted that the superior court had 
the   discretion   to   consider   the   parties'   pre-marital   cohabitation,   but   we   reversed   its 
decision "because it [was] unclear to what extent the court's treatment of the duration of 
the marriage influenced the property division."  Id at 251.  We elaborated that while we 
do   not   require   "a   'talismanic   reference'   to  Murray     or   a   'formalistic   invocation'   of 
particular   language,"   we      must   be   provided   with   a   record   that   allows   for   accurate 
appellate review. Id at 251 n.5.  Today's decision blurs the line between assets acquired 
during pre-marital cohabitation and assets acquired during marriage, adding confusion 
to the already-difficult process of characterizing and valuing marital estates. 

                                                    -42-                                                6643 
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