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Morales v. Carvajal

Supreme Court of New York, Second Department

August 2, 2017

Rafael Morales, respondent,
v.
Livia Carvajal, appellant. Index No. 11448/09

          Submitted - May 11, 2017

         D52978 M/afa

          Antoinette L. Williams, P.C., Mount Vernon, NY, for appellant.

          REINALDO E. RIVERA, J.P. CHERYL E. CHAMBERS JOSEPH J. MALTESE BETSY BARROS, JJ.

          DECISION & ORDER

         Appeal by the defendant from stated portions of a judgment of divorce of the Supreme Court, Westchester County (Susan Capeci, J.), entered December 9, 2014. The judgment, upon a decision of that court entered October 20, 2014, made after a nonjury trial, inter alia, made an equitable distribution of the parties' property.

         ORDERED that on the Court's own motion, the notice of appeal from the decision is deemed to be a premature notice of appeal from the judgment (see CPLR 552O[c]); and it is further, ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed insofar as appealed from, without costs or disbursements.

         The parties were married on July 17, 1994. There are two children of the marriage. The plaintiff commenced this action for a divorce and ancillary relief on May 12, 2009. The parties came to an agreement regarding child custody, maintenance, and child support. Thereafter, the Supreme Court conducted a nonjury trial on issues of equitable distribution. Following the trial, the court issued a decision finding, among other things, that each party was entitled to a 50% share of the net proceeds from the sale of the marital residence, but the plaintiff was entitled to a $14, 805 credit for payments that he made during the action which reduced the mortgage principal; each party was entitled to a 50% share of the value of the plaintiffs 401K account in accordance with Majauskas v Majauskas (61 N.Y.2d 481); and the defendant was responsible for 50% of the total amount of marital debt, payable to the plaintiff out of the defendant's share of the net proceeds of the sale of the marital residence. Thereafter, the court entered a judgment of divorce upon the decision. The defendant appeals from stated portions of the judgment of divorce.

         Contrary to the defendant's contention, the plaintiff is entitled to receive a credit against the proceeds of the sale of the marital residence for the money that he paid to reduce the balance of the mortgage during the pendency of the action (see Goldman v Goldman, 131 A.D.3d 1107, 1108; Le v Le, 82 A.D.3d 845, 845-846; Markopoulos v Markopoulos, 274 A.D.2d 457). The plaintiff made these payments without any contribution from the defendant (see e.g. Freigang v Freigang, 256 A.D.2d 539, 540). Where, as here, a party has paid the other party's share of what proves to be marital debt, such as the mortgage, taxes, and insurance on the marital residence, reimbursement is required (see generally Scher v Scher, 91 A.D.3d 842, 846; Epstein v Messner, 73 A.D.3d 843, 845).

         Credit card debt incurred prior to the commencement of a matrimonial action constitutes marital debt and should be equally shared by the parties (see Lamparillo v Lamparillo, 130 A.D.3d 580, 582; Sawin v Sawin, 128 A.D.3d 663, 665-666; see also Diaz v Gonzalez, 115 A.D.3d 904, 906). Where, as here, the determination as to equitable distribution has been made after a nonjury trial, the evaluation of the credibility of the witnesses and the proffered items of evidence is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court, and its assessment of the credibility of witnesses and evidence is afforded great weight on appeal (see Turco v Turco, 117 A.D.3d 719, 722; Franco v Franco, 97 A.D.3d 785, 786; Schwartz v Schwartz, 67 A.D.3d 989, 990). Here, the Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in finding the defendant responsible for 50% of the marital debt, to be paid from the defendant's share of the net proceeds of the sale of the marital residence.

         The Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in directing, pursuant to the Majauskas formula, that each party was entitled to a 50% share of the value of the plaintiffs 401K account at the time of the commencement of the action (see generally Heymann v Heymann, 102 A.D.3d 832, 833). The defendant's assertion that the court failed to equitably distribute the plaintiffs deferred compensation plans or acknowledge withdrawals made from his IRA and 401K accounts is belied by the record.

         The defendant's remaining contention is without merit.

          RIVERA, J.P., CHAMBERS, MALTESE and ...


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