Domestic Violence, COA18-761, Feb. 19, 2019, Bezzek v. Bezzek, Orange County
Husband filed a complaint for absolute divorce and equitable distribution. Wife admitted the allegations for absolute divorce but filed a motion to dismiss the claim for equitable distribution because the parties had previously executed a separation agreement addressing equitable distribution. Husband responded with a motion to rescind the separation agreement and a motion for the establishment of child support.
After a trial, the lower court found the separation agreement to be void. Wife appealed, claiming the trial court’s order was a “final judgment.” However, because the equitable distribution claim was still pending, the trial court’s order was not final and the appeal is interlocutory. In an interlocutory appeal, the appellant has the burden of providing sufficient facts and arguments that support appellate review on the ground that the challenged order affects a substantial right. Here, Wife failed to make any argument regarding any deprivation of a substantial right and, therefore, failed to meet her burden. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals dismissed Wife’s appeal.
Before dismissing Wife’s appeal, the Court of Appeals looked to an interlocutory statutory remedy under N.C. Gen. Stat § 50-19.1 but found no specific authority to review the validity of a separation agreement. Additionally, the Court considered Rule 2 of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure to suspend the requirements of the Rules to prevent manifest injustice. The Court ultimately declined to invoke Rule 2 because Wife did not request a suspension in her brief, and Husband may have decided not to file a brief in reliance upon Wife’s failure to establish this Court’s jurisdiction to consider her appeal.