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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 . 

        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 

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                 THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA 



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. 



I.       INTRODUCTION 



                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. 



II.     FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS 



        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 



family. 



                                                 -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 



property. 



        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. 



III.    STANDARD OF REVIEW 



                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 


----------------------- Page 6-----------------------

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

discretion.5 



IV.	    DISCUSSION 



        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 

                 debts.[8] 



                 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 


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

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 



together). 



                                                      -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
 


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

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. 



V.      CONCLUSION 



                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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