In October 2013, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals issued an unreported opinion in the family law case of Curran v. Arricale. Stewart A. Sutton represented Appellant Jessica Curran.
The appellate court denied Appellee Arricale’s Motion to Dismiss the appeal, because the acquiescence rule did not apply. Appellant Curran filed her appeal before she accepted payment of part of the monetary award and the attorney’s fees award from Appellee Arricale. The acquiescence also did not apply, because Appellee had not filed a cross-appeal, resulting in Appellant seeking an increase in an undisputed minimum. Her acceptance of payment for part of the judgment was not inconsistent with her position that she should have received a larger monetary award.
The appellate court also vacated the monetary award , because the trial court modified the terms of the parties’ Consent Order regarding the disposition of the family home. The Consent Order provided that Appellant Curran would quitclaim her interest in the family home to Appellee Arricale after she had received her monetary award and that he would refinance or sell the family home to remove Appellant’s liability from the mortgage. The parties agreed that Appellant would receive a monetary award for her share of the equity in the family home. At the time of the divorce, the family home had negative equity. Under the terms of the Consent Order, Appellee was solely responsible for the deficiency in the parties’ mortgage. Kline v. Kline 85 Md.App. 28, 45 (1990) (“marital property cannot have a negative value”).
However, the trial court improperly modified the Consent Order by ordering that $125,000 of Appellant’s monetary award be held in escrow and be applied to half of any deficiency when the family home was sold. There was a $208,000 deficiency when the family home was sold.
Practice pointer: A court cannot modify a Consent Order without the parties’ consent. Kent Island, LLC v. DiNapoli 430 Md. 348, 359 (2013) (“Although a settlement agreement is not a final judgment, a consent order is”) .