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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Reed v. Parrish (10/19/2012) sp-6717

Reed v. Parrish (10/19/2012) sp-6717

        Notice:  This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the PACIFIC  REPORTER . 

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ANTHONY E. REED,                                 ) 

                                                 )       Supreme Court No. S-14053 

                        Appellant,               ) 

                                                 )       Superior Court No. 3AN-09-07373 CI 

        v.	                                      )

                                                 )       O P I N I O N


STEPHANIE E. PARRISH,                            )      No. 6717 - October 19, 2012 


                        Appellee.                )


                Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third 

                Judicial District, Anchorage, John Suddock, Judge. 

                Appearances:        Anthony      E.   Reed,     pro   se,   Anchorage, 

                Appellant.      Goriune      Dudukgian,      Alaska    Legal    Services 

                Corporation, Anchorage, for Appellee. 

                Before:      Carpeneti,      Chief   Justice,   Fabe,    Winfree,    and 

                Stowers, Justices. 

                CARPENETI, Chief Justice. 


                This appeal concerns the property division between a couple who had been 

in a relationship for 12 years but never married.           The couple and their children resided 

in a home titled in the man's name. After they separated, pursuant to a domestic violence 

protective order, the man paid the mortgage while the woman lived in the home with the 

children.   The man filed for custody of the children and the woman counterclaimed for 

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custody and asserted that the parties' property   should be divided by the court.  The 

superior court found that the parties were in a domestic partnership and intended to 

acquire property as though married. It then proceeded to equally divide the property, but 

considered   the   post-separation   mortgage   payments   a   part   of   the   domestic   violence 

protective order and the equivalent of spousal support.           Therefore it did not take them 

into account when dividing the property.          The man appeals, arguing that the superior 

court erroneously concluded that the parties intended to be in a domestic partnership and 

that the superior court improperly failed to credit him for mortgage payments made after 

the separation.  Because the superior court properly found that the parties intended to be 

in a domestic partnership and that the post-separation mortgage payments were made 

pursuant to a domestic violence protective order, we affirm the superior court. 


        A.      Facts 

                Anthony Reed and Stephanie Parrish were in a romantic relationship from 

 1998 until May 2009. They were never married, but Stephanie wore an engagement ring 

given   to   her   by   Anthony.  They   have   two   children   together.1   In   May   2009   their 

relationship ended, and Anthony filed for custody of the children. 

                Shortly after their relationship began in 1998, Anthony moved into the 

condominium that Stephanie leased.          Anthony was not on the lease.          In 2000 the two 

jointly leased a duplex.    They later moved to a house that was purchased in Anthony's 

name only. 

                When the relationship began Stephanie owned a hair salon while Anthony 

worked seasonally.       Stephanie testified that the bills were paid by her when she had 

        1       Stephanie also had a child from a previous relationship who lived with the 


                                                 -2-                                             6717 

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money and by him when he had money.              She also gave Anthony money to purchase a 

snowmachine and other personal items.            After the birth of their second child, Anthony 

and Stephanie decided that Stephanie would stop working and close her salon while 

Anthony   worked   as   a   long-haul   trucker.    Until   the   couple   separated   in   May   2009, 

Stephanie cared for the children and the house; when their youngest child started school, 

she obtained a part-time job as a teacher's aide.   The couple had separate bank accounts, 

but   Anthony     was   largely   responsible   for  the  bills   and  would   deposit   money     into 

Stephanie's account. 

                The relationship was not without trouble. In 2001 Anthony pled no contest 

to an assault on Stephanie and was ordered to complete anger management and alcohol 

treatment.    The couple separated from November 2005 to November 2006 and, during 

this   time,   Stephanie   sought   and   obtained   a   child   support   order. When   the   couple 

resumed their relationship the order was suspended. 

                In 2007 the couple purchased a house.           It was titled solely in Anthony's 

name, apparently because Anthony qualified for a favorable loan through his Native 

corporation.  Stephanie testified that "it just made sense for me not to be on the title . . . 

[b]ut it was always . . . a discussion of, you know, we were together and it was my house 

and if anything were to ever happen to him, it would be my house. . . ."                 She further 

testified that she found the listing for the house on Craigslist, met with the sellers (with 

Anthony), and paid $1,000 towards the earnest money.                 Stephanie also assisted in a 

needed   roof   repair   and   generally   took   care   of   the   house   by   purchasing  furniture, 

redecorating, painting, and replacing broken appliances. 

                Over the course of the relationship the two made several joint purchases 

and filled out other paperwork together.          Notably, in August 2008, Anthony signed an 

affidavit of domestic partnership so that Stephanie could obtain insurance benefits. They 

purchased, registered, and obtained insurance on a 2001 Chevrolet Yukon in both their 

                                                  -3-                                           6717

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names.    Stephanie was listed as a dependent on Anthony's taxes, but she did not claim 

him as a dependent.      Stephanie testified that Anthony told her she was the beneficiary 

of his life insurance policies.  They maintained a joint email account.  They also referred 

to each other, in public, as husband and wife, and did not correct others who assumed 

they were married.      Anthony gave Stephanie a card addressing her as "wife." 

                After the couple ended their relationship they continued to live in the family 

home   together.     However,   in   June   2009,   Stephanie   obtained   an   ex   parte   domestic 

violence   protective     order   against   Anthony.    In   this  order   Stephanie    was   awarded 

possession   of   the   family   home,   and   Anthony   was   directed   to   continue   making   the 

mortgage payments. 

        B.      Proceedings 

                In   May    2009    Anthony     sought    custody    of  the  children.    Stephanie 

counterclaimed,       asserting   that   the  "parties   [had]   acquired    property    during   [the] 

relationship, the rights to which need to be adjudicated by [the] court."              She sought an 

order dividing the parties' property.   A trial on the issues of custody and distribution of 

property was held before Superior Court Judge John Suddock. 

                Anthony argued that there was no intent to form a domestic partnership and 

therefore the house was his separate property. Stephanie argued that the house, and other 

property acquired during the relationship, should be divided based on their intent to 

"share equally in the fruits of their relationship."        The superior court found that the two 

had formed a domestic partnership and that Bishop v. Clark2 applied to the division of 


        2       54 P.3d 804, 811 (Alaska 2002). Bishop establishes factors for determining 

the intent of cohabiting parties as to the distribution of property acquired during their 

relationship.  Id. 

                                                  -4-                                              6717 

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                The major asset was the house.   The parties stipulated that it was valued at 

$267,000.  Anthony also had a retirement account valued at $3,532.  The parties argued 

over other property items, including tools and recreational vehicles.  The superior court 

sought to achieve a 50/50 split of the assets and debts in the relationship.  It awarded the 

family home to Anthony, and the parties each received half the value of the equity. 

                Anthony   sought   reimbursement   for   mortgage   payments   made   after   the 

separation, which was denied.          The superior court found that the payments were made 

pursuant to a domestic violence protective order and were "a functional equivalent of 

interim spousal support, required under the circumstances to permit the parties an orderly 

determination of their property rights." 

                Anthony appeals, arguing that the court erroneously found the parties were 

in a domestic partnership under the Bishop factors and that the property was therefore 

improperly divided.  He also argues that the superior court impermissibly failed to credit 

him for mortgage payments made after the separation. 


                We   review   the   application   of   law   to   facts,   such   as   the   parties'   intent 

regarding ownership of property acquired during cohabitation, de novo.3                 "[A]wards of 

. . . interim spousal support . . .   are left to the sound discretion of the trial court and will 

be reversed only if we find an abuse of discretion."4 We review the superior court's 

        3       Jaymot v. Skillings-Donat , 216 P.3d 534, 539 (Alaska 2009) (citing Bishop , 

54 P.3d at 810-11). 

        4       Hanson v. Hanson , 125 P.3d 299, 304 (Alaska 2005) (citing Beal v. Beal , 

88 P.3d 104,110 (Alaska 2004)). 

                                                  -5-                                               6717 

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procedural   decision   regarding   post-separation   mortgage   payments   for   an           abuse   of 



        A.	     The Superior Court Did Not Err In Finding The Parties Intended To 

                 Share The Fruits Of Their Relationship As If Married. 

                Anthony argues that the superior court mischaracterized the property at 

issue in this case because there was no domestic partnership.               He argues that there was 

no intent to form a domestic partnership because among other things the couple did not 

file   joint   taxes,   there   was   no   joint   business   venture,   he   paid   most   of   the   household 

expenses, and it was an intermittent relationship during which he was subject to a child 

support order.      Stephanie asserts that there was an "intent to share the fruits of their 

relationship as if married."       The superior court found that the couple was in a domestic 

relationship and intended to acquire property as though married, and therefore divided 

the property equally. 

                We   agree     with   the   superior   court   that   the   parties   formed   a   domestic 

partnership and intended to share in the fruits of their relationship as though married, 

justifying an equal division of their property. 6       "[P]roperty accumulated during a period 

of [unmarried] cohabitation should be divided according [to] the parties' intent . . . ."7 

In  Bishop     v.  Clark  we    articulated   several   factors   that   a  court   may  look   to  when 

determining the parties' intent.       A court in such a situation asks if the parties: 

        5       Rockstad v. Erickson , 113 P.3d 1215, 1219-20 (Alaska 2005). 

        6       See, e.g., Julsen v. Julsen , 741 P.2d 642, 645 (Alaska 1987) ("We have 

repeatedly      held   that  an   equal    division   of   [marital]   property     [in  a  divorce]    is 

presumptively valid."). 

        7        Tolan v. Kimball, 33 P.3d 1152, 1154 (Alaska 2001). 

                                                   -6-	                                            6717

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                 (1) made joint financial arrangements such as joint savings or 

                 checking accounts, or jointly titled property; (2) filed joint 

                 tax returns; (3) held themselves out as husband and wife; (4) 

                 contributed      to  the  payment      of  household      expenses;     (5) 

                 contributed      to  the  improvement       and   maintenance      of   the 

                 disputed   property;   .   .   .   (6)   participated   in   a   joint   business 

                 venture[; and (7)] raised children together or incurred joint 


                 Stephanie presented significant evidence that suggests the parties intended 

to share property as though married.            They made many joint financial decisions:            They 

jointly leased an apartment; they jointly purchased a vehicle and obtained insurance for 

it, even reporting their marital status as "M" on the paperwork; and Stephanie was listed 

as   a   dependent   on   Anthony's   tax   returns.    Not   only   did   they   make   significant   joint 

financial   decisions,   but   throughout   the   relationship   both   parties   contributed        to   the 

household.  For example, prior to closing her salon, Stephanie would pay bills when she 

had money and Anthony would pay when he had money, but they agreed they were 

jointly responsible.  Stephanie, in consultation with Anthony, quit her job to care for the 

children. The couple also held themselves out as married on several occasions. Anthony 

gave Stephanie a card titled "For My Wife."               Their friends thought they were married 

and they referred to each other as husband and wife in public. 

                 Several other facts support a finding that the parties were in a domestic 

partnership and intended to share property as though married.  They signed a health 

insurance domestic partnership affidavit to obtain coverage.   The purchase of the house 

also indicates the joint nature of the parties' relationship.               They looked for housing 

together, Stephanie found the listing on Craigslist, and they met the sellers together.  She 

also contributed earnest money towards the purchase. Ultimately they decided, together, 

         8       Bishop , 54 P.3d at 811 (footnotes omitted). 

                                                    -7-                                                 6717 

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that   it   should   be   titled   in   Anthony's   name   to   gain   favorable   financing.       After   the 

purchase, Stephanie acted as a co-owner of the house.                     She helped replace the roof, 

painted   the   house,   redecorated        the   rooms,   and   purchased   furniture   for   the   rooms. 

Finally, Anthony and Stephanie raised two children together, and Anthony also helped 

raise Stephanie's child from a previous relationship. 

                 Anthony argues that there were very few joint financial decisions because 

he paid most of the bills, they did not have joint checking or other financial accounts, and 

they did not file joint tax returns.  However, his argument misinterprets the import of the 

listed  Bishop   factors.      First,   the   factors   are   not   exclusive;9  they   reflect   the   factual 

circumstances of the case - in Bishop the parties happened to have formalized financial 

arrangements that indicated financial interdependence.10                 Here, Stephanie and Anthony 

had not formalized their arrangements but were still financially interdependent. As noted 

above, the couple made many joint financial decisions.                  The fact that they did not have 

a joint bank account does not defeat the couple's intertwined financial decision-making. 

                 Although there are some indications that the parties may not have intended 

to equally share property, such as a lack of a joint checking account and Stephanie's sole 

proprietorship of her salon, as a whole the evidence suggests the opposite.  The contrary 

evidence   that   does   exist   likely   results   from   the   fact   that   the   parties   simply   did   not 

integrate   all   of   their   financial   matters.   We   affirm   the   superior   court's   finding   of   a 

domestic partnership. 

         9       Id.  ("In   determining   the   intent   of   cohabitating   parties,   courts   consider, 

among other factors . . . .") (emphasis added). 

         10      Id.  (commingling   of   income;   joint   checking   accounts;   raising   children 


                                                      -8-                                                  6717 

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         B.	     The Superior Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion In Not Crediting 

                 Anthony For Post-Separation Mortgage Payments. 

                 Anthony argues that the superior court erred in denying him credit for half 

of the post-separation mortgage payments, a total of $7,320.                  Stephanie argues that the 

superior   court   properly   declined   to   credit   Anthony   because   he   paid          the   mortgage 

pursuant   to   a   domestic   violence   protective   order   and   requiring   a   domestic   violence 

victim to reimburse her abuser would frustrate the policies behind the relief offered under 

the   domestic   violence   statutes.      The   superior   court   did   not   credit   Anthony's   post- 

separation   mortgage   payments,   finding   that   the   payments   were   made   pursuant   to   a 

domestic   violence   protection   order   and   that   they   were   the   "functional   equivalent   of 

interim spousal support." 

                 The superior court properly determined Anthony should not receive credit 

for the post-separation mortgage payments.  Under AS 18.66.100(b) the superior court 

may     provide   a   broad    range   of   relief   to  a   victim   of   domestic   violence,   including, 

"remov[ing]       and    exclud[ing]     the  [perpetrator]     from   the   residence    of   the  [victim], 

regardless   of   ownership   of   the   residence,"11       and   "order[ing]   other   relief   the   court 

determines   necessary   to   protect   the   [victim]   or   any   household   member."12           After   a 

contested hearing, the issuing court found it necessary to award possession of the house 

to Stephanie while Anthony continued paying the mortgage, as he had been doing prior 

to the separation.  This was well within the discretion of the issuing court as "other relief 

the court determines necessary."13          Accordingly, it was proper for the court in the instant 

         11      AS 18.66.100(c)(3). 

         12      AS 18.66.100(c)(16). 

         13      Id . 

                                                     -9-                                                  6717 

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case to decline to credit those mortgage payments.  To find otherwise would disrupt the 

relief given Stephanie under the domestic violence protective order. 

               Further, the post-separation mortgage payments maintained the status quo, 

ensuring that   the children's stability was maximized while the parties litigated their 

dispute.  The parties had long structured their relationship with Stephanie staying home 

to raise the children.    To disrupt that arrangement during the pendency of the court 

hearing would have been unfair to the children and was contrary to the intent of the 

parties. Additionally, we have held that the superior court has significant discretion to 

characterize money paid pursuant to a domestic violence order as it sees proper in the 

circumstances.14    While the superior court could have credited Anthony's payments, it 

was not an abuse of discretion to decline to do so. 

               Finally, despite Anthony's argument to the contrary, Wood v. Collins15 is 

not controlling in this case.   In that case, we held that the rules of cotenancy governed 

post-separation mortgage payments and accordingly, the non-occupant cotenant was 

entitled   to  credit  for  his  payments   on  the  property.16  Although     there  are  some 

similarities, namely, in both cases unmarried couples intended to jointly own property 

which one was occupying (in Wood, the title was in both names),17 there are some crucial 

differences.   First, in  Wood, the payments covered an extended period of time - over 

        14     Stevens v. Stevens, 265 P.3d 279, 288-89 (Alaska 2011) (superior court may 

characterize spousal support granted in domestic violence protective order as property 

which should be credited against the victim at time property is distributed). 

        15     812 P.2d 951 (Alaska 1991). 

        16     Id. at 958. 

        17     Id. at 953, 956. 

                                              -10-                                         6717

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three   years.18   Here,   in   contrast,   there   were   no  long-term   payments,   only   interim 

payments that allowed the children to stay in the house through the holiday season. 

Second, in Wood, the occupying cotenant excluded the other from the premises without 

benefit of legal process.19    Here, Anthony was not ousted by Stephanie, but rather by the 

court as a result of the domestic violence protective order.           Finally, the payments were 

made pursuant to that order and for the purpose of maintaining the children's residence. 

                Because     the   payment   of   the  mortgage     was   required    by  the  domestic 

violence protective order, which makes no distinctions based on marital status, and the 

payments allowed the parties to maintain stability for the children as long as possible, we 

affirm    the   superior   court's   decision   not   to   credit   Anthony   for   the   post-separation 

mortgage payments. 


                We AFFIRM the superior court's conclusions that there was a domestic 

partnership in which the parties intended to share property as though married and that 

Anthony was not entitled to credit for the post-separation mortgage payments. 

        18      Id. at 953. 

        19      Id. 

                                                  -11-                                              6717 

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