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In re Marriage of Medeiros.

2023 COA 42. No. 21CA1317. Dissolution of Marriage—Permanent Orders—Motion to Reopen Evidence—Changed Economic Circumstances—Valuation of Marital Estate.

May 18, 2023

Wife petitioned for dissolution of marriage. The district court held a two-day permanent orders hearing. Following the close of evidence, the court took the case under advisement and informed the parties that given the extensive case evidence and numerous upcoming trials on the court’s docket, it would be “a long time” before the court would enter a final order. Husband sought to reopen the evidence eight months after the permanent orders hearing but before the court had issued permanent orders or dissolved the parties’ marriage, alleging that wife’s economic circumstances had substantially changed in the intervening eight months due to an inheritance (or expected inheritance) that hadn’t been anticipated at time of the permanent orders hearing. The court rejected husband’s request to reopen on the grounds that it lacked the authority to do so and issued permanent orders dissolving the parties’ marriage, dividing the parties’ property, and awarding wife maintenance.

On appeal, husband argued that the district court erred by denying his motion to reopen the evidence. District courts have discretion to decide whether reopening the evidence is appropriate and necessary to advance justice and facilitate the court’s determination on the merits. Here, even though the scheduled permanent orders hearing had long ago concluded, the parties were still married and nothing prevented the court from acting within its discretion and reopening the evidence to allow the parties to present evidence of wife’s allegedly changed circumstances. Therefore, the district court erred by concluding that it lacked authority to reopen the evidence, and the error was not harmless because husband made an adequate offer of proof concerning wife’s alleged changed economic circumstances and explained how that new evidence could impact the court’s resolution of the then-pending permanent orders.

Husband also contended that the district court erred in valuing and dividing the marital estate because the delayed entry of permanent orders resulted in changes to the value of certain assets and debts. Here, the district court properly valued the marital property as of the date of the permanent orders hearing and considered the effect of its delayed ruling when it divided the marital estate. Further, while husband argued that the court’s 10-month delay in entering permanent orders violated CRS § 13-5-135, he failed to pursue the statutory remedy for this violation. Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion.

Husband further argued that the district court improperly valued his ownership interest in the financial investment services company he operated. However, the district court weighed the conflicting evidence and properly determined the value of husband’s ownership interest with record support.

Husband further asserted that the district court erred by not determining what portion of his potential personal injury claim was his separate property and by giving wife 25% of his potential recovery. Here, the district court implicitly determined that husband failed to meet his burden to demonstrate what portion, if any, of the potential personal injury claim was his separate property. Given the minimal and conflicting evidence supporting husband’s separate property argument, the court did not err in determining that the potential personal injury claim was marital property subject to the court’s division.

Lastly, husband contended that the district court’s maintenance award must be reversed because the court improperly determined that wife’s income was $5,333 per month. The district court expressly found that wife’s gross income was $8,333 per month and, by definition, that finding accounted for her reasonable business expenses. But the court then deducted another $3,000 per month from wife’s gross income, improperly accounting for her business expenses twice. Therefore, the court erred by finding that wife’s income was $5,333 per month.

The judgment was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded, with instructions, for further proceedings. Those portions of the judgment not challenged on appeal remain undisturbed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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