COA: Wife is entitled to maintenance, larger amount of marital estate

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ordered a trial court to divvy up a marital estate with more than 50 percent of it going to the wife because she rebutted the presumption of an equal division.

Daylene Coleman appealed the order dissolving her marriage to Scott Atchison, arguing the court abused its discretion when it denied her request for incapacity maintenance and in its division of the marital estate.

Coleman and Atchison were married for 10 years when Coleman filed for divorce in 2011. During the course of their marriage, she became disabled, stopped working, and began receiving Social Security disability payments. Atchison has worked throughout the marriage and has children from a previous relationship.

The trial court found that the presumption of an equal division of assets and liabilities between the parties has been rebutted based on evidence presented by Coleman. Wells Circuit Judge Kenton W. Kiracofe held that a division of property in favor of Coleman is warranted, but then ordered the marital property split 50/50.

The parties also stipulated that Coleman is incapacitated to the extent that her ability to support herself is materially affected, but Kiracofe declined to award her incapacity maintenance.

The Court of Appeals reversed the dissolution order in Daylene M. (Atchison) Coleman v. Scott A. Atchison, 90A02-1311-DR-921. The judges noted Kiracofe’s findings and conclusions on the maintenance award are inconsistent. He made findings based on Temple v. Temple, 164 Ind. App. 215, 328 N.E.2d 227 (1975), to explain why he did not award maintenance. But he also found that there are no extenuating circumstances “that directly relate to the criteria for awarding incapacity maintenance” and that Atchison should pay Coleman maintenance, quoting Cannon v. Cannon, 758 N.e.2d 524 (Ind. 2001), without citation.

Kiracofe also expressly found Coleman rebutted the presumption of an equal division, but then divided the martial estate in half. The appeals court ordered on remand for the lower court to award her more than 50 percent of the marital estate and to either award Coleman incapacity maintenance or identify specific extenuating circumstances directly related to the statutory criteria for awarding such maintenance that would justify denying the award.


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