Date March 15, 2016
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
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.
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.
and her husband, Gerald Cracraft (Husband), married on
October 7, 2001. They separated on July 13, 2010. No children
were born of the marriage.
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.
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.
I. Transmutation of the Highway 221 Property
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.
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] ...