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Henderson v. Henderson

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 18, 2019

John Henderson, Appellant-Petitioner,
Tina Henderson, Appellee-Respondent

          Appeal from the Hamilton Superior Court The Honorable David K. Najjar, Special Judge Trial Court Cause No. 29D05-1702-DC-1121

          Attorney for Appellant Christopher J. Evans Dollard Evans Whalin LLP Noblesville, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Kathryn H. Burroughs Monty K. Woolsey Nancy L. Cross Cross Glazier Burroughs, P.C. Carmel, Indiana

          Crone, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] John Henderson ("Husband") appeals the trial court's findings of fact, conclusions thereon, and judgment ("the Order") dissolving his marriage to Tina Henderson ("Wife") and dividing their marital estate. Husband argues that the trial court erred by including his contractual interest in certain real estate in the marital estate, valuing that real estate, and excluding certain evidence. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] In August 2000, Husband and Wife married. Husband is a farmer, and Wife is a self-employed grant administrator. They had two children during the marriage, and Wife was pregnant when the parties' marriage was dissolved.

         [¶3] In March 2010, Husband entered into a contract ("the Contract") with Deborah Hoover and Ruthanne Bowser ("Sellers") to purchase 37.93 acres in Tipton ("the Real Estate") for $189, 650.00, and he paid Sellers $1000 as a down payment. Amended Ex. Vol. 3 at 68 (Husband's Ex. 97).[1] Wife is not a party to the Contract. The Contract requires Husband to make annual payments of principal and interest in the amount of $15, 137.76 for a term of twenty years, but denies him the "privilege of pre-payment." Id. at 69. Husband is also required to pay the taxes on the Real Estate and to keep the Real Estate insured. Id. The Contract requires Husband to use the Real Estate, and on the date the Contract was executed, Husband took "full and complete possession of the Real Estate" and obtained the right to plant crops and to perform all other functions in connection with farming the Real Estate. Id. at 69. The Contract prohibits the Real Estate from being rented, leased, or occupied by any person other than Husband. Id. at 73. The Contract prohibits both Sellers and Husband from selling or assigning their interests in the Contract or the Real Estate without the other party's written consent, provided, however, that consent shall not be unreasonably withheld. Id. The Contract also prohibits Sellers from obtaining a loan secured by a mortgage on the Real Estate. Id. The Contract contains a forfeiture clause, which provides that if Husband fails to perform as agreed or make any payments as they become due, "the Contract shall, at the option of the Sellers, be forfeited and terminated and all payments theretofore made shall be retained by the Sellers as rent" for the use of the Real Estate. Id. at 74. Finally, the contract provides that upon Husband's full performance and the payment of all sums due under the Contract, Sellers agree to convey to Husband the Real Estate by warranty deed. Id. at 70.

         [¶4] In February 2017, Husband filed a petition for legal separation from Wife, which was subsequently converted to one for dissolution. Husband and Wife agreed to bifurcate the dissolution proceedings, so that property issues would be decided separately from child-related issues. Mother requested findings of fact and conclusions thereon pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 52(A). In December 2018, a hearing was held solely on property issues, after which, the trial court took the matter under advisement.

         [¶5] In May 2019, the trial court issued the Order, dissolving the parties' marriage and dividing the marital estate; the child-related issues were addressed in a subsequent order and are not in issue here. The Order provides in relevant part as follows:

29. Husband is party to a land contract for the purchase of 37.93 acres of real estate located on S.R. 28, in Tipton, Indiana. Husband entered into the land contract in March of 2010 and made payments during the marriage from marital assets. Husband also insured the property and paid taxes from marital assets during the marriage. Husband farms the land that he is purchasing on contract. The parties dispute the date of filing value of the real estate as well as the payoff amount.
Wife contends the amount owed is $118, 000 as represented by the parties on financial statements to Farmers' Bank. Husband contends the payoff balance is $139, 000, which matches testimony and exhibits submitted at the final hearing by Donna Lehman, a CPA who had done work for both parties in their individual capacities as well as their business interests. A real estate appraisal by Comer Real Estate states the value of the real estate is $303, 600 as of September 15, 2017. Wife contends the real estate is worth $379, 300 or $10, 000 per acre, which is the value the parties used on a financial statement prior to the date of filing submitted to Farmers' Bank.
30.The Court finds the value of the real estate is $303, 600 and the amount owed on the property is $139, 000.

         Appealed Order at 7. The trial court included the value of the Real Estate and the amount due on the Contract in the marital estate and calculated the marital estate's net worth to be $903, 261.03. Id. at 5-6, 10, 12 (findings 24 and 48). The trial court found that Husband had rebutted the presumption that an equal division of the marital estate would be just and reasonable and awarded him 55% of the marital estate and Mother 45%. The Order awarded Husband the contractual interest in the Real Estate, providing as follows: "Husband shall also be solely responsible for the remaining balance owed on [the Contract] and shall receive the contractual interest in the 37.93 acres on State Road 28 in Tipton, Indiana free and clear of any claim of Wife." Id. at 14. Husband was also awarded the marital residence and was ordered to refinance the mortgage and remove Wife from all liability for the mortgage. When the refinancing was completed, Wife was ordered to execute a quitclaim deed transferring her interest in the marital residence to Husband. To achieve an equitable division, Husband was ordered to pay Wife $257, 504.47. Husband appeals.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶6] Here, the trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions thereon at Wife's request. Our ...

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