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Taylor-Cracraft v. Cracraft

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

July 13, 2016

Carolyn Taylor-Cracraft, Appellant,
v.
Gerald Cracraft, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2014-001483

          Heard Date March 15, 2016

         Appeal From Saluda County Kellum W. Allen, Family Court Judge

          Victoria L. Eslinger, James Grant Long, III, Manton M. Grier, Jr., and Jennifer Joan Hollingsworth, all of Nexsen Pruet, LLC, of Columbia, for Appellant/Respondent Carolyn Taylor-Cracraft.

          John S. Nichols and Blake Alexander Hewitt, of Bluestein Nichols Thompson & Delgado, LLC, of Columbia; and William Randall Phipps, of Phipps Family Law, P.A., of Hilton Head Island, for Respondent/Appellant Gerald Cracraft.

          OPINION

          LOCKEMY, C.J.

         In this divorce action, Carolyn Taylor-Cracraft (Wife) appeals the family court's order, arguing (1) the family court lacked jurisdiction to apportion her 2.26 acres of riverfront property (the Highway 221 Property) because it was nonmarital property that had not been transmuted into marital property; (2) the family court erred in listing the Highway 221 Property and the parties' jointly-owned corporation, RiverWinds Landing, Inc. (the Corporation), for sale at $800, 000; (3) the family court's 61% to 39% division of the marital estate was not equitable and the family court erred in "awarding" her all of the marital debt; and (4) the family court erred in not awarding attorney's fees to her. We reverse and remand.

         FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Wife and her husband, Gerald Cracraft (Husband), married on October 7, 2001. They separated on July 13, 2010. No children were born of the marriage.

         On September 2, 2011, Wife filed for a divorce from Husband. On April 3, 2014, the family court granted Wife a divorce on the ground of adultery. The family court identified the marital property and awarded 61% of the marital property to Wife and 39% to Husband. The family court determined the Highway 221 Property Wife owned before the marriage was transmuted into marital property. In finding the Highway 221 Property transmuted, the family court concluded the property was used in support of the marriage and "exclusively for marital purposes with the expectation and intent of creating a joint retirement" by using the Corporation to operate a marina on the property. The family court ordered the Highway 221 Property and the Corporation to be listed for sale for $800, 000. Last, the family court ordered Husband and Wife to pay their own attorney's fees. Wife appealed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "Appellate courts review appeals from the family court de novo." Buist v. Buist, 410 S.C. 569, 574, 766 S.E.2d 381, 383 (2014). "Thus, an appellate court may find facts in accordance with its own view of the preponderance of the evidence." Id. "[H]owever, this broad scope of review does not require the Court to disregard the findings of the family court, which is in a superior position to make credibility determinations." Crossland v. Crossland, 408 S.C. 443, 451, 759 S.E.2d 419, 423 (2014). "The appellant retains the burden to demonstrate the error in the family court's findings of fact." Buist, 410 S.C. at 574, 766 S.E.2d at 383.

         LAW/ANALYSIS

          I. Transmutation of the Highway 221 Property

         Wife argues the family court lacked jurisdiction to apportion the Highway 221 Property because it was nonmarital property that was not transmuted into marital property. We agree.

         Section 20-3-630(A) of the South Carolina Code (2014) defines "marital property" as "all real and personal property which has been acquired by the parties during the marriage and which is owned as of the date of filing or commencement of marital litigation . . . regardless of how legal title is held." However, "property acquired by either party before the marriage" and "any increase in value in non-marital property, except to the extent that the increase resulted directly or indirectly from efforts of the other spouse during marriage" are considered nonmarital property. § 20-3-630(A)(2) & (5). "The [family] ...


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