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Simpson v. Simpson

Supreme Court of Delaware

August 8, 2019

AMY LOUISE SIMPSON, [1] Petitioner Below, Appellant,
v.
CALVIN G. SIMPSON, Respondent Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: May 31, 2019

          Court Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware File No. CN15-02666 (S) Petition Nos. 17-30245, 18-00722

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; SEITZ and TRAYNOR, Justices.

          ORDER

          Leo E. Strine, Jr. Chief Justice

         After consideration of the parties' briefs and the record below, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) The petitioner below-appellant, Amy Louise Simpson ("the Wife"), has filed this appeal from the Family Court's order, dated November 9, 2018, denying her motions for relief under Family Court Civil Rules 60(b), new trial under 59(a), and reargument under 59(e). After careful consideration, this Court concludes that the Family Court's judgment should be affirmed.

         (2) The Wife and the respondent below-appellee, Calvin G. Simpson ("the Husband"), were married on March 20, 1993 and divorced on August 14, 2015. After an ancillary hearing, the Family Court entered an order on property division and alimony on September 19, 2016. The Family Court ordered the parties to divide all household goods (except for furniture that the Husband documented as purchased before the marriage) 50/50 by agreement or by the two-list method.[2]

         (3) On September 27, 2017, the Wife filed a petition for a rule to show cause, alleging that the Husband had refused to honor her list of requested household goods and had failed to provide two lists of household goods. The Wife also alleged that the Husband had failed to sign a release for funds the Wife received in connection with a car accident. In response, the Husband stated that he had emailed the required lists to the Wife's counsel on December 28, 2016. The Husband also stated that he had returned the signed release to the Wife's counsel.

         (4) At the November 8, 2017 hearing on the rule to show cause, the Wife's counsel admitted that after he received the Husband's response to the Rule to Show Cause petition, he had reviewed his email files and had found the Husband's email with the two lists. He informed the Family Court that the Wife requested the items on List A. The Wife's counsel stated that he never received an original copy of the signed release. The Family Court resolved the release issue by having the Husband sign the release and notarizing the release. The Family Court entered a written order holding that the Wife would receive the List A items and that the Husband would receive the List B items. The order required the parties to cooperate in transferring the property on the lists. The order also established the schedule for the Wife's intended application for attorneys' fees.

         (5) In addition to filing a motion for attorneys' fees, the Wife filed a motion for a new trial. The motion alleged that the Husband failed to include all of the household items acquired by the parties during the marriage on the lists but the Wife had selected List A to resolve the matter, the Husband had failed to release the items on List A, and the Husband and had failed to comply with the Family Court's orders. Through newly retained counsel, the Husband opposed both motions. The Husband argued that he was not found in contempt so there was no basis for an award of attorneys' fees, he had responded to inquiries regarding the retrieval of the List A items, and there was no basis for a new trial. The Family Court denied both motions.

         (6) On January 9, 2018, the Wife filed a motion for relief from the November 8, 2017 order under Rule 60(b). The Wife argued that the Husband had failed to comply with the ordered two-list method because List B contained more than forty items that also appeared on List A. The Wife also filed another petition for a rule to show cause, alleging that the Husband had failed to comply with the November 8, 2017 order. The Husband opposed both motions, arguing that the Husband did not have counsel at the time he prepared the lists and did not know how to comply with the two-list method. The Husband also argued that the Wife or her counsel should have discovered the mistake with the lists sooner and that the Wife was seeking items he acquired after their separation or that she had already collected from him.

         (7) On February 13, 2018, the Family Court granted in part and denied in part the motion for relief under Rule 60(b). The Family Court held that the Wife was not entitled to relief under Rule 60(b), but that the Family Court could exercise its equitable powers under 10 Del. C. § 925 to grant relief.[3] The Family Court found that both parties had acted with unclean hands because they both had ample opportunity to discover the Husband's error and correct it at the November 8, 2017 hearing. The Family Court ordered the Husband to divide the items on List A into two lists and the Wife to pick one of the lists. The Family Court reminded the Wife that she was not entitled to items the Husband purchased after the separation and that she could not request items that she had already collected. The Family Court dismissed the Wife's rule to show cause petition as moot.

         (8) On February 23, 2018, the Wife filed a motion for reargument, arguing that the Husband had acted wrongly by preparing lists that did not contain all of the household goods and that the Wife should receive all of the items on List A or have the opportunity to prepare two lists of all the relevant household goods. The Husband opposed the motion. On March 21, 2018, the Wife filed a motion for enlargement of time and an objection to the two lists prepared by Husband. The Wife argued that the lists prepared by the Husband did not include many of the items on List A and that the Husband failed to show he purchased the omitted items after separation.

         (9) The Family Court granted the Wife's motion for reargument so that the parties could offer evidence and testimony at a rule to show cause hearing. The Family Court would then determine how to divide the parties' property. The hearing was scheduled for May 24, 2018 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. By the time the hearing concluded on May 24th, only the Husband had testified. The Family Court scheduled ...


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