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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Grove v. Grove (8/11/2017) sp-7189

Grove v. Grove (8/11/2017) sp-7189

           Notice:   This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the P                    ACIFIC  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                                       



MELVIN  B.  GROVE  JR.,                                              )  

                                                                     )      Supreme  Court  Nos.  S-16056/16075  

                                Appellant  and                       )  

                                Cross-Appellee,                      )      Superior  Court  No.  3AN-13-05282  CI  

                                                                     )  

           v.                                                                                   

                                                                     )      O P I N I O N  

                                                                     )  

                        

CHERYL M. GROVE,                                                                                                  

                                                                     )     No. 7189 - August 11, 2017  

                                                                     )  

                                                 

                                Appellee and                         )  

                                Cross-Appellant.                     )  

                                                                     )  



                                                                                                              

                                   

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

                                                                                                     

                      Judicial District, Anchorage, William F. Morse, Judge.  



                                                                                                              

                      Appearances:  John C. Pharr, Law Offices of John C. Pharr,  

                                                                                                                   

                      P.C.,  Anchorage,  for  Appellant/Cross-Appellee.                                  Kara  A.  

                                                                                                               

                     Nyquist,            Nyquist           Law         Group,           Anchorage,               for  

                      Appellee/Cross-Appellant.  



                                                                                                           

                      Before:  Stowers, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, Bolger,  

                                           

                      and Carney, Justices.  



                                           

                      WINFREE, Justice.  



I.         INTRODUCTION  



                                                                                                                                        

                      Parties in a divorce and property division trial disputed the value of the  



                                                                                                                                       

husband's post-retirement military medical benefits. The superior court determined that  



                                                                                                                                    

the benefits were a marital asset, but declined to value them or account for their value  



                                                                                                                                        

when dividing the marital estate.   The court instead ordered the husband to pay for  


----------------------- Page 2-----------------------

                                                                                                                              

comparable  medical  benefits  for  the  wife  for  the  rest  of  her  life.                               The  court  also  



                                                                                                                              

determined that most of the wife's student loans were marital debt and allocated that debt  



                                                                                                                         

to her. Both parties appeal the superior court's decision regarding the husband's medical  



                                                                                                                         

benefits; the husband also appeals the superior court's characterization of the student  



                                                                                                                           

loans as marital debt.   We affirm the superior court's characterization of the wife's  



                                                                                                                           

student loans as marital debt, but we reverse and remand for the superior court to assign  



                                                                                                                                 

a value to the husband's post-retirement military medical benefits and to finalize an  



                                                                  

equitable distribution of the marital estate.  



                                  

II.       FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS  



                                                                                                                          

                    Cheryl and Melvin Grove married in 1986 and separated in 2011; Cheryl  



                                                                                                                          

filed for divorce in 2013.  They had no minor children at the time of separation.  Melvin  



                                                                                                                                   

entered the military six months before the marriage and retired in 2005.   He has a  



                                                                                                                             

military pension and lifetime military medical benefits through TRICARE.  From 2009  



                                                                                                                               

to 2012 Cheryl pursued a master's degree, incurring substantial student loan debt.  



                                                                                                                                

                    Trial was held over three days in 2014; the primary asset in dispute for the  



                                                                                                   

marital property division was Melvin's post-retirement medical benefits.  Both Cheryl  



                                                                                                             

and Melvin presented expert testimony valuing his benefits.  Cheryl's expert provided  



                                                                                                                                 

three values ranging from $239,000 to $284,000; Melvin's expert provided a value of  



                                                                                                  

$124,400.  The parties also provided testimony about Cheryl's student loan debt.  In a  



                                                                                                                          

March 2015 order the superior court granted the divorce and distributed the marital  



            

estate.  



                                                                                                                          

                    The superior court characterized all of Melvin's medical benefits as marital  



                                                                                                                          

but declined to assign a cash value, seeking instead to give Cheryl "half of what Melvin  



                                                                                                                                 

has . . . but not something different."   The court ordered "Melvin to pay Cheryl an  



                                                                                                                   

amount of money over time that will enable her to purchase a reasonably equivalent"  



                                                                                                                                

medical insurance policy, "leav[ing] the selection of that policy to the parties to work out  



                                                                -2-                                                         7189
  


----------------------- Page 3-----------------------

                                                                                                                        

if they can."  Melvin was directed "to deposit the monthly premium into an account  



                                                                                                                                

controlled by Cheryl."  The court ordered that Cheryl use the money only to pay for  



                                                                                                                            

medical insurance premiums "unless the parties, with the approval of the Court, agree  



                                

to an alternate use."  



                                                                                                                                      

                    The superior court characterized most of Cheryl's student loans as marital.  



                                                                                                                               

The court credited Cheryl's testimony that about $50,000 of her nearly $60,000 debt was  



                                                                                                                                      

incurred before separation and that some loan proceeds wereusedto pay living expenses.  



                                                                                                              

The court allocated that marital debt to Cheryl in the property division.  



                                                                                                                             

                    Cheryl moved for reconsideration, arguing that the superior court had erred  



                                                                                                                              

by failing to assign a value to Melvin's medical benefits and to take that value into  



                                                                                                                                

account in the property division.   Cheryl alternatively requested clarification of the  



                                                                                                                              

court's  order,  raising  concerns  about  fluctuation  of  premiums  and  the  timing  and  



                                                                                                                          

duration of Melvin's payments. In response Melvin disputed the court's factual finding  



                                                                                                                              

that the medical benefits were 100% marital, noting that he had entered the military prior  



                                                                                                                                

to marrying.  And although Melvin stated that the court's method of distribution for the  



                                                                                                                             

medical benefits was "reasonable," he sought to ensure that Cheryl did not receive more  



                                                                                                     

comprehensive medical insurance than his TRICARE coverage.  Melvin also disputed  



                                                                                                                          

the court's finding that Cheryl's student loans were marital debt, asserting that no portion  



                                                                  

of the loans was used for living expenses.  



                                                                                                                                  

                    On reconsideration the superior court refused to change its distribution of  



                                                                                                                          

the medical benefits or its characterization of nearly $50,000 in student loans as marital  



                                                                                            

debt.  The court "declined to put a fair market value on the [medical] benefits because  



                                                                                                                                 

of the awkward impact of valuation of this somewhat contingent asset" and because "it  



                                                                                                                                 

cannot be easily translated to a liquid value." The court instead described its order as an  



                                                                                                                            

alternative and more appropriate valuation of Melvin's medical benefits.   The court  



                                                                                                                             

clarified, however, that "Melvin must provide the coverage for Cheryl until she dies,  



                                                                -3-                                                         7189
  


----------------------- Page 4-----------------------

even if he predeceases her," and that Melvin's payments must track any fluctuations in                                                                                                    



Cheryl's   insurance   premiums.     The   court   rejected  Melvin's   assertion   that   Cheryl's  



student loans were separate debt, noting that he was merely repeating or supplementing                                                                        



what he said at trial.                        



                             Melvin appeals the superior court's characterization of Cheryl's student                                                                         



loans as             marital debt,                  and   both   parties appeal the court's method of valuation                                                                      and  



allocation of Melvin's medical benefits.                                                  



III.           STANDARD OF REVIEW                       



                             Equitable   property   distribution   on   divorce   is   a   three-step   process.   



                                                                                                                              1  

"[C]haracterizing property as either marital or separate,"                                                                                                                    

                                                                                                                                 the first step, "may involve  



                                                                        2  

                                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                            "Underlying factual findings as to the parties' intent,  

both legal and factual questions." 

                                                                                                                                                     3   "Findings of fact  

                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                             

actions, and contributions to the marital estate are factual questions." 



are reviewed for clear error, but whether the trial court applied the correct legal rule . . .  

                                                                                                                                                                                            

is a question of law that we review de novo using our independent judgment."4  "Second,  

                                                                                                                                                                           



the  trial  court  must  place  a  value  on  the  property,  a  ruling  which  is  a  factual  

                                                                                                                                                                              



determination reviewed for clear error.  To reverse for clear error, we must be left with  

                                                                                                                                                                                     

a definite and firm conviction on the entire record that a mistake has been made."5                                                                                                       A  

                                                                                                                                                                                          



               1             Beals  v.  Beals,  303  P.3d  453,  458  (Alaska  2013).  



               2             Id.  at  459  (quoting  Odom  v.  Odom,   141  P.3d  324,  330  (Alaska  2006)).  



               3             Id.   (citing   Odom,   141   P.3d   at   330; Doyle   v.  Doyle,   815   P.2d   366,   368  



(Alaska   1991)).  



               4             Id. (quoting Hanson v. Hanson, 125 P.3d 299, 304 (Alaska 2005)).  

                                                                                                                                                                 

                                     



               5             Hansen v. Hansen, 119 P.3d 1005, 1009 (Alaska 2005) (footnote omitted)  

                                                                                                                                                                            

(first citing Moffitt v. Moffitt, 749 P.2d 343, 346 (Alaska 1988); then citing Martens v.  

                                                                                                                                                                       

Metzgar, 591 P.2d 541, 544 (Alaska 1979)).  

                                                                                  



                                                                                            -4-                                                                                    7189
  


----------------------- Page 5-----------------------

court's decision whether to value personal property, however, is a legal question that we                                                                                          



                                  6  

review de novo.                                                                                                                                                                    

                                       We review the third step, the equitable allocation of property, for an  



                                                                                                                           7  

                                                                                                           

abuse of discretion, reversing only if it is "clearly unjust." 



IV.	          DISCUSSION  



                                                                                                                                                                              

              A.	            Characterizing $50,000 Of Cheryl's Student Loans As Marital Was  

                                       

                            Not Erroneous.  



                                                                                                                                                                                    

                            Melvin disputes the superior court's determination that all but $10,000 of  



                                                                                                                                                                                  

Cheryl's  student  loans  was  marital  debt,  arguing  that  the  loans  all  should  be  



                                                                                                                                                                             

characterized as separate property.  We have held that "there is a presumption that debts  

                                                                                                                         8   That presumption applies to  

                                                                                                                                                                                    

incurred during the marriage are to be treated as marital." 



student loan debt; in Veselsky v. Veselsky we determined that absent "evidence showing  

                                                                                                                                                                      



that the parties intended the debt to be separate," a student loan "obtained during the  

                                                                                                                                                                                  

marriage" was properly characterized as marital property.9  In McDougall v. Lumpkin we  

                                                                                                                                                                                   



similarly held that student loans should be treated as marital debt, especially in light of  

                                                                                                                                                                                    



unrebutted evidence that the spouse pursuing higher education did so with the other  

                                                                                                                                                                             



              6             See Mellard v. Mellard                           , 168 P.3d 483, 486 (Alaska 2007) (holding that "it                                                   



was error to fail to value" a marital asset);                                            Cox v. Cox             , 882 P.2d 909, 918 (Alaska 1994)                           

("The court's failure to make any findings regarding the value of personal property                                                                                   

constitutes reversible error . . . .").                          



              7             Hansen, 119 P.3d at 1009 (citing Moffitt, 749 P.2d at 346).  

                                                                                                                                               



              8              Veselsky v.Veselsky, 113 P.3d 629, 636 (Alaska 2005).  

                                                                                                                                   



              9             Id. ; see also  Wagner v.  Wagner, 386 P.3d  1249, 1252-53 (Alaska 2017)  

                                                                                                                                                                            

(holding post-marriage consolidated student loan, including one pre-marriage loan, was  

                                                                                                                                                                                

all marital debt absent evidence of intent to keep loans separate).  

                                                                                                                      



                                                                                         -5-	                                                                                7189
  


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

spouse's support, and that "they had sometimes used the student loans to pay living                                                            

expenses and non-education debts."                              10  



                        Thesuperiorcourt madethefollowing factual findings when characterizing  

                                                                                                                                 



the loans:  (1) "[t]he debt at the time of the first day of trial (January 2014) was [about  

                                                                                                                                       



$60,000]"; (2) "roughly $10,000 of that total was incurred after separation"; (3) "[a]  

                                                                                                                                                   



portion of the loans was paid directly to the college for tuition and housing"; and (4) "[a]  

                                                                                                                                                    



portion went directly to [Cheryl] for living expenses." Based on those findings the court  

                                                                                                                                                 



determined that nearly $50,000 of Cheryl's student loans was marital debt.  

                                                                                                                                       



                        Melvin asserts that "the loans were used exclusively for tuition and no part  

                                                                                                                                                    



of the student loan funds were used for living expenses" and "the parties agreed that the  

                                                                                                                                                     



loans would be separate and that [Cheryl] would be responsible for repaying them." But  

                                                                                                                                                    



Melvin has not shown that the court's factual findings are clearly erroneous or that he  

                                                                                                                                         



rebutted the presumption that the loans were marital debt. "[I]t is the function of the trial  

                                                                                                                                                   



court,  not  of  this  court,  to  judge  witnesses'  credibility  and  to  weigh  conflicting  

                                                                                                                                      

                   11  Cheryl testified that her loans paid for tuition, housing, and living expenses,  

evidence."                                                                                                                               



that about $10,000 of the debt was incurred after separation, and that Melvin had been  

                                                                                                                                                  



supportive of her educational endeavors.  The court credited Cheryl's testimony, "and  

                                                                          



we will not re-weigh evidence when the record provides clear support for the trial court's  

                                                                                                                                              

ruling."12  

                                                                                                                                            

                   The court's underlying and ultimate factual findings characterizing $50,000  



                                                                                 

of the student loans as marital are not clearly erroneous.  



            10          11P.3d 990,           994 (Alaska 2000) (holding superior court                                 should havetreated   



student loans as marital debt).             



            11          Fink  v.  Municipality  of  Anchorage,  379  P.3d  183,  192  (Alaska  2016)  

                                                                                                                                               

(quoting In re Adoption of S.K.L.H., 204 P.3d 320, 325 (Alaska 2009)).  

                                                                                                                   



            12         Id. (quoting In re Adoption of S.K.L.H., 204 P.3d at 325).  

                                                                                                                     



                                                                          -6-                                                                    7189
  


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

                                         Based    on    the    law    and    the    facts    we    affirm    the    superior    court's  



characterization of about $50,000 of Cheryl's student loan debt as marital.                                                                                                                                   



                     B.	                 Not  Valuing   Melvin's   Post-Retirement   Medical   Benefits   And   Not  

                                         Accounting For That Value In Distributing The Marital Estate Was                                                                                                                                                    

                                         Error.  



                                         Both Melvin and Cheryl appeal the superior court's treatment of Melvin's                                                                                                                               



post-retirement medical benefits.                                                                      Cheryl argues that the court erred by failing to assign                                                                                          



a value to the benefits, and she requests that the court be directed to value them and                                                                                                                                                                         



consequently "rebalance the distribution of the marital estate."  Melvin argues that the                                                                                                                                                                          



benefits should not be considered marital, and that his TRICARE benefits cannot be                                                                                                                                                                                  



given an accurate cash value based on the trial testimony and our decision in                                                                                                                                                               Hansen v.   



                          13  

Hansen .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

                                   But Melvin also posits that "a fair cash payment" - rather than a lifetime  



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 stream of payments for medical insurance premiums - would be the more appropriate  



                                                                                                                                                                  

method of equalizing the marital estate distribution.  



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                         Melvin's argument that his post-retirement medical benefits are not marital  



                                                                                                            

property is unpersuasive:  "Health insurance benefits earned during the marriage are a  



                                                                                                                       14  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

marital  asset  of  the  insured  spouse."                                                                                        In  Burts  v.  Burts  we  specifically  analyzed  



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

TRICARE benefits earned during the marriage and concluded that they properly were  



                     13                   119 P.3d 1005, 1016 (Alaska 2005) (holding that to calculate the post-                                                                                                                                           



retirement medical benefits' value, "the superior court should look to the amount of the                                                                                                                                                                          

premium subsidy provided by the employer, rather than to either the proceeds or the cost                                                                                                                                                                       

of procuring comparable insurance").                                           



                     14                  Id. at 1015 (citing Kinnard v. Kinnard, 43 P.3d 150, 156 (Alaska 2002));  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

see also Dundas v. Dundas, 362 P.3d 468, 474-75 (Alaska 2015) (remanding for court  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

to  address  "apparent  oversight"  in  failing  to  make  findings  about  "potential  PERS  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

retirement health benefit").  

                                                       



                                                                                                                                  -7-	                                                                                                                      7189
  


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

considered marital.15  But characterizing all of Melvin's TRICARE benefits as marital  



was clearly  erroneous.                      The court found that "[a]ll of Melvin's retirement medical  

                                                                                                                                            



benefits are marital" because Melvin "entered the military after marrying and left before  

                                                                                                                                               



separation." But, as Cheryl acknowledges, Melvinenteredthemilitary sixmonths before  

                                                                                                                                               



the marriage. On remand the court should recalculate the portion of Melvin's TRICARE  

                                                                                                                                        

benefits  earned  during  the  marriage.16                                  Apart  from  that  error  the  court  correctly  

                                                                                                                                         



characterized Melvin's post-retirement medical benefits as marital.  

                                                                                                          



                        Characterizing the benefits was the first  step  in the equitable division  

                                                                                                                                           

process.17   Cheryl argues that the superior court failed to complete the second step when  

                                                                                                                                                 



it did not value Melvin's post-retirement medical benefits for purposes of an equitable  

                                                                                                                                          



division and distribution of the marital estate.  We agree.  

                                                                                           



                        Thesuperior court ordered Melvin to payCheryl's lifetimehealthinsurance  

                                                                                                                                          



premiums as an alternative valuation of Melvin's post-retirement medical benefits.  But  

                                                                                                                                                    



the court also expressly "declined to put a fair market value on the benefits." The court's  

                                                                                                                                              



order that Melvin "pay Cheryl an amount of money over time that will enable her to  

                                                                                                                                                      



purchase a reasonably equivalent policy" does not qualify as a valuation under the  

                                                                                                                                                    



            15          266 P.3d 337, 341-46 (Alaska 2011);                                 see also Horning v. Horning                         , 389   



P.3d 61, 64 (Alaska 2017) (reaffirming                                 Burts and holding spouse's TRICARE benefit  

was marital property to the extent earned during the marriage).                               



            16          See Hansen, 119 P.3d at 1015 ("The court should determine the percentage  

                                                                                                                                       

of the benefits that is marital by calculating the 'coverture fraction.' This fraction is  

                                                                                                                                                       

calculated by dividing the number of years worked during the period of coverture by the  

                                                                                                                                                     

total  number  of  years  worked."  (footnote  omitted)  (quoting  BRETT    R.    TURNER,  

                                                                                                                     

   QUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF PROPERTY  6.10 (2d ed. 1994))).                                       

E                                                                        



            17  

                                                                                                                                                       

                        See Beals v. Beals, 303 P.3d 453, 458 (Alaska 2013) (first citing Doyle v.  

                                                                                                                                                   

Doyle, 815 P.2d 366, 368 (Alaska 1991); then citing Wanberg v. Wanberg, 664 P.2d 568,  

                        

570 (Alaska 1983)).  



                                                                          -8-                                                                    7189
  


----------------------- Page 9-----------------------

second step and cannot substitute for an appropriate equitable distribution of the marital                                                                             



estate.   



                            Without findings about the value of marital property, we have no "means                                                                   



of evaluating whether an equitable distribution has been achieved"; not making such                                                                                        

                                                                               18  In Mellard v. Mellard, for example, weheld that  

findings "constitutes                       reversibleerror."                                                                                                                 

it was error to distribute a retirement account before assigning it a value.19                                                                               In that case  

                                                                                                                                                                             



the wife did not provide evidence of her retirement account's present value; the court  

                                                                                                                                                                          



distributed the estate and ordered an equalization payment after assigning a value only  

                                                                                                                                                                            

to the husband's retirement account.20   We reversed, holding "it was error to fail to value  

                                                                                                                                                                           



                                                                                                              21 

[the wife's] account and to assign [it] a zero value."                                                             Here the superior court did not  

                                                                                                                                                                               



assign a value to Melvin's post-retirement benefits despite testimony by two experts, yet  

                                                                                                                                                                               



the court then ordered an equalization payment without accounting for the value of those  

                                                                                                                                                                           



benefits.   Under Mellard  failure to value the benefits before finalizing an equitable  

                                                                                                                                                                  

division of the marital estate was erroneous.22  

                                                                       



                            The nature of Melvin's post-retirement medical benefits does not relieve  

                                                                                                                                                                       



the superior court of responsibility for determining their value. Hansen is the controlling  

                                                                                                                                                               

case on valuing post-retirement medical benefits,23 and neither party asked us to overrule  

                                                                                                                                                                    



that case.  In Hansen we held that "the superior court should look to the amount of the  

                                                                                                                                                                               



              18            Cox  v. Cox, 882  P.2d  909,  918  (Alaska   1994)  (citing  Lang  v.  Lang,  741  



P.2d   1193,   1195  (Alaska   1987)).  



              19            168  P.3d  483,  486  (Alaska  2007).  



              20            Id.  at  484.  



              21            Id.  at  486.  



              22            Id.  



              23            See   119  P.3d   1005,   1016  (Alaska  2005).  



                                                                                        -9-                                                                                7189
  


----------------------- Page 10-----------------------

premium subsidy provided by the employer, rather than to either the proceeds or the cost                                                             



                                                                   24  

of procuring comparable insurance."                                                                                                                      

                                                                        We acknowledged the "inherent difficulties in  

                                                                                           25  we also explained that even a non- 

                                                                                                                                                   

                                                                            

attempting to calculate the value of" these benefits; 



                                                                                                                                                        26  

transferrable marital asset has value, and "the court should have determined this value."                                                                     

                                                                                                                                             



The superior court expressed some concern about the fairness of assigning a cash value  

                                                                                                                                                   



to Melvin's non-transferrable benefits, noting that - unlike other marital assets -  

                                                                                                                                                       



health insurance cannot be sold and "symmetry is absent if Cheryl gets cash and Melvin  

                                                                                                                                               



gets medical coverage."  But under Hansen the court must determine the value of non- 

                                                                                                                                                    

transferrable benefits regardless of their nature.27  

                                                                                          



                        We  also  explained  in  Hansen  how  to  value  post-retirement  medical  

                                                                                                                                             

benefits,28  and it was possible for the superior court to do so here.  Melvin argues that  

                                                                                                                                                     



TRICARE cannot be valued consistent with Hansen 's requirement because the benefits  

                                                                                                                                              



"have no employer subsidy to the recipient employee" and are "provided free by the  

                                                                                                                                                      



government."  He further argues that both his own expert witness and Cheryl's violated  

                                                                                                                                              



                                                                                                                                                         29  

Hansen by valuing his benefits based on "the cost of procuring comparable insurance."                                                                         

                                                                                                                                     



Melvin argues that Burts, in which we determined that TRICARE benefits were marital  

                                                                                                                                                



and could be valued, does not apply here because "the potential violation of Hansen does  

                                                                                                                                                    



not appear to have been an issue" in that case.  

                                                                                     



            24          Id.   at   1016   (citing  BRETT  R.   TURNER,    EQUITABLE   DISTRIBUTION   OF  



PROPERTY  6.26 (2d ed. Supp. 2004)).                     

                     



            25          Id.  



            26          Id.  at   1015.  



            27          See  id.  at   1015-16.  



            28          See  id.  at   1016.  



            29          Id.  (citing  TURNER,  supra  note  24,    6.26).  



                                                                          -10-                                                                     7189
  


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

                       Melvin's arguments are not persuasive. We held in                                       Burts  that "TRICARE   



                                                                                                                                         30  

benefit[s] can be objectively valued" and cited sources explaining how to do so.                                                              The  



                                                                                                                                            

experts at trial did not impermissibly rely on the cost of replacement insurance to value  



                                                                                                                                   

Melvin's TRICARE benefits. Both experts testified that applying Hansen to TRICARE  



                                                                                                                                                

is difficult because the government is self-insured and there is no published value for the  



                                                                                                                                      

premium subsidy.  But both experts estimated Melvin's TRICARE benefits' premium  



                                                                                                                                     

subsidy value by reference to analogous plans, a method that does not violate Hansen 's  



                                                                                                                                          

mandate.   We see no reason the superior court cannot on remand rely on the expert  



                                                                                 

testimony to make a valuation consistent with Hansen .  



                                                                                                                                         

                       We do agree with Melvin's alternative position that the superior court's  



                                                                                                                                        

chosen method "bears the strong potential for disputes."  We have a "strong policy"  

                                                                                                31  and requiring Melvin to pay  

                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                  

favoring reducing financial entanglement after divorce, 



Cheryl's monthly insurance premiums for her lifetime only increases the likelihood of  

                                                                    

                                          32   The court left "selection of that policy to the parties to work  

future financial disputes.                                                                                                                  

                            



out if they can" and, as Melvin observed, if and when they cannot the court would once  

                                                                                                                                             



again become involved in the property division.  Under the court's order such conflict  

                                                                                      



could continue even after Melvin's death.  Valuing Melvin's post-retirement medical  

                                                                                                                                        



benefits and equitably dividing and distributing the marital estate avoids those pitfalls.  

                                                                                                                                        



           30          266 P.3d 337, 343 (Alaska 2011) (first citing T                                    RACY  FOOTE, M               ILITARY  



                           

DIVORCE  TIPS  17 (2010); then                          citing M       ARK   E. S       ULLIVAN, T          HE   MILITARY   DIVORCE  

HANDBOOK 522 (Am. Bar Ass'n 2006)).                       

                      



           31          Ethelbahv.          Walker, 225 P.3d 1082,                  1095(Alaska2009)(quoting                        Musgrove  



                                                                                  

v. Musgrove, 821 P.2d 1366, 1370 n.7 (Alaska 1991)).  



           32          See 2 BRETT  R. T             URNER, E        QUITABLE  DISTRIBUTION OF  PROPERTY    6.31,  

                               

                                                                                                                                     

at 193 (3d ed. 2005) ("Divorced parties are notoriously willing to pursue litigation  

                                                                                                                                              

against each other, and future court actions are therefore a significant possibility as long  

                                     

as any issues remain outstanding.").  



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                              We note finally that valuation of Melvin's medical benefits will affect the                                                                                     



marital estate's overall value. Once valuation is complete the superior court "may revisit                                                                                             

                                                                                                                                            33  while considering "the  

the larger question of how best to equitably divide the estate,"                                                                                                                            



financial  condition  of  the  parties,  including  the  availability  and  cost  of  health  

                                                                                                                                                                                     

insurance."34                    The court retains discretion to divide and distribute the estate equitably,  

                                                                                                                                 

including ordering an equalization payment on reasonable terms.35  

                                                                                                                                      



V.             CONCLUSION  



                              We AFFIRM the superior court's characterization of a portion of Cheryl's  

                                                                                                                                                                                  



student loans as marital.  We REVERSE the superior court's decision about Melvin's  

                                                                                                                                                                                



post-retirement medical benefits and REMAND for the superior court to value those  

                                                                                                                                                                                         



benefits and equitably divide and distribute the marital estate.  

                                                                                                                              



               33             Hanson v. Hanson                          , 125 P.3d299,306n.22 (Alaska2005) (citing                                                            Harrower  



v.  Harrower, 71 P.3d 854, 860 n.17 (Alaska 2003)).                                                   



               34             AS 25.24.160(a)(4)(D).  

                                        



               35             See Pfeil v. Lock, 311 P.3d 649, 655 (Alaska 2013) (noting that on remand  

                                                                                                                                                                                    

"if  the  court  engages  in  an  equitable  distribution  of  all  of  the  parties'  marital  .  .  .  

                                                                                                                                                                                                 

property, it may reallocate the property or order an equalization payment to achieve an  

                                                                                                                                                                                                

equitable distribution").  

                       



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