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Domestic Relations – Equitable Distribution – Valuation – Orthodontic Practice – Machine Purchase

Showfety v. Showfety (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-185-16, 20 pp.) (Linda Stephens, J.) Appealed from Rowan County District Court (Lillian Jordan, J.) N.C. App. Unpub.

Holding: Where the defendant-husband bought a piece of equipment for his orthodontic practice after the parties’ separation, and where the plaintiff-wife’s expert mistakenly included that machine in his calculation of the date-of-separation value of the practice, it was reasonable for the trial court to simply deduct the purchase price of the machine from the expert’s valuation of the practice in order to reach a date-of-separation value.

We affirm the equitable distribution order in part and remand in part for correction of clerical errors.

The $2,720 value of the X-ray machine represented less than 3/10 of one percent of the total $1,002,328 date-of-separation value of the orthodontic practice. Thus, even if the trial court should have adjusted the expert’s valuation in a slightly different way to remove the X-ray machine’s value, the trial court nevertheless accomplished its crucial task: to arrive at a date-of-separation value which reasonably approximates the net value of the business interest.

Defendant owned his orthodontic practice before the parties married and continued to operate it during and after the parties’ marriage. Defendant’s expert valued 35 percent of the increase in the value of the practice between the date of marriage and the date of separation as passive and therefore defendant’s separate property. However, plaintiff’s expert concluded that the increase in value of the practice during the parties’ marriage was “completely active….”

The trial court found plaintiff’s expert’s valuation to be more valid. Weighing the credibility of witnesses and resolving discrepancies in the evidence is the role of the trial court.

However, there are several conceded mathematical and clerical errors in the equitable distribution order. These must be corrected on remand.

Affirmed in part; remanded in part.

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