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Allred v. Allred

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

November 21, 2019

JIMMIE B. ALLRED
v.
PASSAPORN P. ALLRED

          Circuit Court for Howard County Case No.: 13-C-14-098841.

          Nazarian, Wells, Adkins, Sally D. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

          OPINION

          ADKINS, SALLY D., J.

         A bullish stock market is the genesis for this appeal, which involves interpretation of a Marital Settlement Agreement ("Settlement Agreement") between Jimmie B. Allred ("Husband"), appellant and Passaporn P. Allred ("Wife"), appellee. The dispute is what amount of the post-divorce appreciation in Husband's 401(k) stock account should be shared by Wife.

         The parties were married on October 15, 2004 and divorced on July 30, 2014. The Judgment of Absolute Divorce directed that the provisions of the Settlement Agreement, which was signed on April 2, 2013, were incorporated by reference, but not merged, into the judgment. The judgment reserved jurisdiction for the receipt and entry of any order necessary "to effectuate the intent of the parties as expressed in their agreement." Paragraph 6R of the Settlement Agreement addressed disposition of what the parties, and we, shall refer to as the "Principal 401(k)":

Husband is the owner of a Principal EDO 401(k) ("Principal 401(k)") with an approximate marital value of $293, 889.00. The parties agree that Wife will receive from the Principal 401(k) the sum of $181, 667.00 plus or minus investment experience, dating from March 1, 2013 to the date of Judgment of Divorce. The parties agree that Husband will receive the balance. The parties agree that this transfer will be pursuant to a Qualified Domestic Order or Court Order Acceptable for Processing, as needed and that they will each pay one-half the cost necessary to secure this Order. (Emphasis added.)

         The Settlement Agreement contained "the entire understanding of the parties" and they concurred that "[n]o modification or waiver of any of [its] terms shall be valid unless made in writing, and signed by the parties . . . ." The parties also agreed to "execute such documents and perform such acts as may be required to effectuate the purposes of [Paragraph 6R]." Divorce was granted on July 30, 2014.

         After the judgment of divorce was entered, counsel for Wife prepared a Qualified Domestic Relations Order ("QDRO") to transfer Wife's interest from Husband's Principal 401(k). Husband's attorney disagreed that wife was entitled to "investment experience" for any period after the divorce and requested several times that the QDRO be amended to provide that the investment experience be allowed only until the date of divorce, as called for in the Settlement Agreement. Wife's attorney did not agree.

         More than three years later, on October 3, 2017, Wife filed a Complaint for Entry of Qualified Domestic Relations Order with the circuit court, asking for "investment experience" on her share of the 401(k) after the date of divorce. In his answer, Husband contended that he, not Wife, was entitled to investment experience after the date of divorce. The circuit court ruled in favor of Wife, saying:

[Wife] is entitled to her share of the 401(k) proceeds as described in the parties' Marital Settlement Agreement, as well as any and all investment experience attributable to her share since the date of the divorce. Conceptually, [Wife's] share is separate as of the date of divorce, and any interest (or losses) attributable to [Wife's] share are [Wife's] property, and are not the property of [Husband].

         The parties were ordered to submit a Qualified Domestic Relations Order reflecting the above terms. Husband appealed to this Court.

         The questions presented are as follows:

1. Did the lower court err by altering gains and losses beyond the terms of the parties' marital separation agreement?
2. Did the lower court abuse its discretion when the judgment for absolute divorce was modified without demonstrating ...

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