Please E-mail suggested additions, comments and/or corrections to Kent@MoreLaw.Com.

Help support the publication of case reports on MoreLaw

Date: 02-16-2023

Case Style:

In re the Matter of Michael Schneider v. Lestie Schneider

Case Number: 1 CA-CV-21-382

Judge: Brown

Court: Court of Appeals for Arizona on appeal from the Superior Court, Navajo County

Plaintiff's Attorney:

Click Here to Watch How To Find A Lawyer by Kent Morlan

Click Here For The Best Flagstaff Family Law Lawyer Directory

If no lawyer is listed, call 918-582-6422 and MoreLaw will help you find a lawyer.

Defendant's Attorney:

Click Here For The Best Flagstaff Family Law Lawyer Directory

Description: Flagstaff, Arizona family law lawyers represented petitioner and respondent divorce case.

Coconino County Courthouse - Flagstaff, Arizona

Coconino County Courthouse - Flagstaff, Arizona

¶2 After 14 years of marriage, Michael Schneider ("Husband") petitioned for divorce from Wife. At the time of the petition, the parties owned, among other property, a mortgage-free rental house in Boulder City, Nevada. In January 2014, following a trial, the superior court entered its decree of dissolution. As pertinent here, the decree allocated to Husband all debts that were in his name, and to Wife all debts in her name.

¶3 The decree also confirmed the parties' agreement that the house would be listed for sale and that Wife would be given a 25% "interest in the proceeds upon the sale."[1] Husband was ordered to sell the house upon termination of a then-existing lease, and Wife was awarded $300 per month in spousal maintenance, which would terminate upon sale of the house. The decree did not address which party or parties should bear pre-sale expenses.

¶4 After more than four years on the market, the court ordered a substantial reduction in the listing price and the house was ultimately sold in 2020 for $556,000. The parties then moved for distribution of the sale proceeds and the court held an evidentiary hearing ("2021 hearing"). As pertinent here, the issues considered were whether the parties should (1) proportionately share financial responsibility for upkeep and maintenance expenses incurred between 2014 and 2020 ("upkeep expenses") as well as selling costs, (2) equally share responsibility for a previously unknown debt (loan) reduced to judgment that became a lien against the house (the "judgment lien"), and (3) equally share the legal fees Husband incurred in California to dispute the judgment lien ("California legal fees"). Husband claimed Wife was partially responsible for these expenses and they should be deducted from her share of the sale proceeds. Wife countered that she was not responsible for any of these expenses and was therefore entitled to 25% of the gross proceeds from the sale of the house.

¶5 The court interpreted the decree as requiring Wife to pay for her proportionate share of each expense and thus ordered her to pay 25% of the upkeep expenses, realtor fees, and closing costs, plus 50% of the judgment lien and California legal fees. The court reasoned in part that no one anticipated it would take so long to sell the house, but the parties knew there would be costs involved in maintaining the property and selling it. Recognizing that the decree did not address whether these expenses would be shared, the court found it would be inequitable to have Husband bear them "alone after all these years." The court also explained that allocating all the expenses to Husband would be unfair because Wife caused significant delay in selling the house because she blocked Husband's efforts to lower the price.

¶6 After finding that Wife's share of the gross sale proceeds was $139,126.66, the court calculated her net disbursement as $45,234.68. Wife timely appealed, and we have jurisdiction under A.R.S. § 12-2101(A)(2).


¶7 Wife challenges several portions of the order distributing the sale proceeds. She first argues the superior court improperly relied on its own findings in prior minute entries and orders when it ordered her to pay 25% of the $17,000 upkeep expenses. She then contests the court's characterization of the judgment lien as community debt and the requirement that she pay 50% of the lien, asserting it was Husband's separate property and was attributed to him in the decree. Wife also contests the court's order requiring her to pay 50% of the California legal fees, asserting the court misapplied a separate fee-sharing agreement.

¶8 When apportioning community property as part of a dissolution proceeding, "the superior court has broad discretion to achieve an equitable division, and we will not disturb its allocation absent an abuse of discretion." Boncoskey v. Boncoskey, 216 Ariz. 448, 451, ¶ 13 (App. 2007). An abuse of discretion occurs if the court "commits an error of law in the process of exercising its discretion." Id. We view the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the court's ruling, and we will sustain it if reasonably supported by the evidence. Id. We review issues of law de novo. Nielson v. Patterson, 204 Ariz. 530, 531, ¶ 5 (2003).

Outcome: "We affirm the superior court's order distributing the proceeds of the rental house. In our discretion, we deny Wife's request for attorneys' fees under A.R.S. § 25-324. As the successful party on appeal, Husband is awarded taxable costs subject to compliance with ARCAP 21.

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


Find a Lawyer


Find a Case