A woman's premarital student loan was consolidated with other student loans incurred during marriage. Her husband argued at the couple's divorce trial that he should not be responsible for the consolidated loans because they contained the premarital debt and because his wife had wasted loan proceeds by gambling. The superior court, however, held the parties equally responsible for the loans, finding that it was impossible to extricate the premarital loan from the consolidated loans and that the amounts were all marital debt primarily used to support the family while the wife attended school. It further found that the husband had failed to prove a waste of marital assets.
II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
Felicia and Richard Wagner married in 1993, separated in 2009, and filed for divorce in February 2010. In June 2011 the superior court determined that Richard's failure to appear at the couple's divorce trial was voluntary and unexcused, and proceeded without him.
At the second trial Richard was represented by counsel and Felicia was not. The issues were limited. Richard argued that he should not be liable for Felicia's student loans, including one that was premarital and several that were obtained during the marriage. Although these loans were consolidated during the marriage, he argued that he should not be liable for the premarital portion and that Felicia had wasted much of the marital loan proceeds by her online gambling. According to Felicia, however, the loan proceeds were used primarily to pay the family's rent while they lived in student housing.
The superior court concluded that Felicia's consolidated student loans were entirely marital debt. Lacking evidence about how to "track, back out, or otherwise quantify the value" of the premarital portion, the court was unable to determine "what, if any, of the total loan amount in the context of the subsequent refinancing during the course of the marriage is non-marital."
The superior court also found that Richard had failed to prove that Felicia wasted marital assets. The court credited Felicia's testimony that the student loans were used for marital purposes, including her tuition and the couple's rent, noting that the parties did not otherwise earn enough during the marriage to support themselves. The court held each party responsible for half the loans' principal and half their interest.
Richard appeals the superior court's decision not to subtract the premarital loan from the consolidated loans and challenges the court's conclusion that Felicia did not waste marital assets by gambling. He also raises for the first time an argument that the superior court was biased against him.
III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW
A trial court's "equitable division of marital assets involves three steps: (1) determining what property is available for distribution, (2) finding the value of the property, and (3) dividing the property equitably."
A. The Superior Court Did Not Clearly Err When It Found That Felicia's Premarital Loan Was Transmuted Into Marital Debt Through Loan Consolidation.
Richard first challenges the superior court's decision that responsibility for Felicia's student loans should be shared equally. Felicia obtained student loans from a number of sources; these included a 1992 premarital loan with a principal amount of $1,313,
Generally, a spouse is not liable for the other spouse's premarital debts or liabilities.
The consolidated loans in this case, too, were incurred during the marriage and were "presumptively marital debt."
B. The Superior Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion When It Equally Allocated Responsibility For The Marital Debt.
Richard next challenges the superior court's conclusion that he failed to prove that Felicia wasted marital assets on gambling. Equal division of marital assets and liabilities is presumptively correct,
Richard bore the burden of proving that Felicia wasted marital assets by gambling.
The superior court's written findings considered both Richard's and Felicia's testimony about the marital loans and concluded that Felicia's testimony about how the money was used was more credible, especially in light of the parties' tax returns, low income, receipt of public assistance, and use of student housing during part of the marriage. Factual and credibility assessments are the responsibility of the trial court,
C. The Superior Court Did Not Demonstrate Bias Against Richard.
Finally, Richard argues that the superior court demonstrated bias against him when it "refused to allocate the premarital student loan debt to [Felicia], even though neither party disputed this debt belonged to [her]," and when it failed to sua sponte schedule an additional evidentiary hearing once it concluded "that this premarital student loan debt was too difficult to calculate" on the existing record. But "judicial bias should not be inferred merely from adverse
Our own review of the record "fails to reveal any unfairness in the conduct of the [proceedings]" or any instances of bias.
The judgment of the superior court is AFFIRMED.