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2004-UP-269 - Cutshaw v. Cutshaw
THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals


Charles Ellis Cutshaw,        Respondent,

v.

Joyce Sinclair Cutshaw,        Appellant.


Appeal From Chester County
Brooks P. Goldsmith, Family Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2004-UP-269
Submitted March 8, 2004 – Filed April 19, 2004


AFFIRMED 


Coreen B. Khoury, of Lancaster, for Appellant.

Thomas F. McDow, of Rock Hill, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Joyce Sinclair Cutshaw (Wife) appeals the provision of the family court order placing the valuation on the real property allotted to Charles Ellis Cutshaw (Husband), and the apportionment of unsecured martial debt.  We affirm.[1] 

FACTS

The family court granted Husband and Wife a divorce and issued an order apportioning the marital property and debt.  All assets and debt were divided equally except for two parcels of property:  (1) a house and seventeen acres located in Farmwood Estates and (2) a house and twelve acres located on Trussel Road. 

Husband and Wife each had independent experts appraise the properties for the purpose of equitable distribution.  Husband’s appraiser valued Farmwood at $118,000, while Wife’s appraiser valued it at $154,000.  Husband’s appraiser submitted a value of $84,000 on Trussel Road, compared with a valuation of $98,000 offered by Wife’s appraiser.  The family court awarded Farmwood to Husband with a 45 percent equity interest retained by Wife, and awarded Trussel Road to Wife with a 45 percent equity interest retained by Husband.  For both parcels, the court accepted the appraised values placed on them by the appraiser for the party to whom the property was awarded; that is, the court used Husband’s appraisal for Farmwood and Wife’s appraisal for Trussel Road.  

Wife appeals the valuation assigned to Husband’s property at Farmwood and also the distribution of unsecured marital debt, contending it to be inequitable. 

DISCUSSION

In appeals from the family court, this court may find facts in accordance with its own view of the preponderance of the evidence.  Miles v. Miles, 355 S.C. 511, 516, 586 S.E.2d 136, 139 (Ct. App. 2003).  However, this broad scope of review does not require us to disregard the family court’s determinations.  Id.  Nor do we ignore the fact that the trial judge, who saw and heard the witnesses, was in a better position to evaluate their credibility and assign comparative weight to their testimony.  Id. 

I.  Valuation of Farmwood

Wife claims the family court erred in adopting Husband’s valuation of Farmwood, arguing the appraisal was too low in light of all the evidence.  We disagree.

In valuing marital property, the family court may give such weight to expert testimony as it deems appropriate.  Smith v. Smith, 294 S.C. 194, 200, 363 S.E.2d 404, 408 (Ct. App. 1987).  Therefore, the court may accept one party’s valuation of marital property over another’s.  Id. at 200-201, 363 S.E.2d at 4078.  The family court’s valuation will not be disturbed if it is within the range of evidence.  Woodward v. Woodward, 294 S.C. 210, 215, 363 S.E.2d 413, 416 (Ct. App. 1987).

Husband’s appraiser testified Farmwood had a value of $118,000 at the time of trial.  Although Wife’s expert valued the property at $154,000, we note the same expert valued the property at $120,000 less than two years earlier when the parties refinanced the property.  We therefore conclude the valuation assigned to Farmwood was within the range of values supported by the evidence.  Accordingly, the family court did not err by adopting Husband’s appraisal.

II.  Allocation of Unsecured Marital Debt

Wife argues the family court erred by allocating 50 percent of the unsecured marital debt to her.  She contends the court abused its discretion by requiring her to pay an equal share of the debt while only giving her a 45 percent interest in Farmwood.  We disagree.

When apportioning marital debt, the family court must consider the factors set out in S.C. Code section 20-7-472 (Supp. 2003).  The statute vests the family court with discretion to decide what weight should be assigned to the various factors of equitable apportionment.  On review, we look to the fairness of the overall apportionment; if the end result is equitable, it is irrelevant that we might have weighed specific factors differently than the family court.  Jenkins v. Jenkins, 345 S.C. 88, 100, 545 S.E.2d 531, 537 (Ct. App. 2001). 

Wife argues because a portion of the marital debt was incurred to pay for improvements to Farmwood as well as Husband’s medical bills, the family court should have made Husband pay a greater share of the debt.  The debt was not limited to expenses for Husband alone.  Moreover, Wife received an equal share of the personal property accumulated during the marriage, despite the fact she earned only 35 percent of the household income.  As such, when considering the overall distribution, we find no abuse of discretion in the equitable distribution of marital debt.

AFFIRMED.

HUFF and STILWELL, JJ., and CURETON, A.J., concur.


[1]           We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.