ILNews

Court failed to include all assets in marital pot

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For the second time in the same case, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's division of assets in a marital dissolution because the trial court excluded from the marital pot the property the parties brought into marriage.

In Lori (Faust) Montgomery v. Dennis Faust, No. 85A04-091-CV-32, Lori Montgomery appealed the trial court's ruling on remand that excluded land and a car owned by Dennis Faust from the marital pot. The trial court excluded the same property in its original ruling on the dissolution, but the Court of Appeals remanded with instructions to put all the marital property into the marital pot before determining the appropriate division.

On remand, the trial court issued its order which stated the land and the car are included in the marital pot, but it still ruled the same way it had in the first order. The court returned the land and car to Faust, ordered Montgomery to pay Faust $5,451 as an equalization payment and reaffirmed its original order. It noted the order resulted in an unequal distribution of all the marital assets, but it was appropriate because of the short duration of the marriage.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Montgomery's argument that simply setting off all property owned by each party prior to the marriage in such a "perfunctory manner" constituted the type of systematic exclusion of assets the appellate court held to be an abuse of discretion in its original opinion.

"Purporting to put all marital assets into the marital pot but then removing certain assets before dividing the rest is equivalent to excluding those assets from the pot in the first place," wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

Knowing the numerical split of the entire estate may alter the trial court's view of the appropriateness of its division and having the trial court determine the total value of the marital estate helps appellate courts when reviewing the division.

Also, by failing to include all the marital assets in the marital pot, the trial court abused its discretion by failing to adequately consider all of the factors listed in Indiana Code Section 31-15-7-5. The trial court shall presume that an equal division of the marital property between the parties is just and reasonable, and the presumption may be rebutted by evidence that an equal division wouldn't be just and reasonable, wrote Judge Riley. The Court of Appeals was unable to infer from the trial court's order that it considered all the statutory factors.

"There is nothing in either order to suggest that the trial court considered the present economic circumstances of each spouse, the future earnings ability of each spouse, or the conduct of the parties during the marriage as related to the disposition or dissipation of their property," she wrote.

Instead of remanding the case again for further proceedings, the Court of Appeals remanded with instructions to eliminate the equalization payment from Montgomery to Faust from its dissolution decree.

The appellate court also affirmed the trial court denial of attorney fees in favor of Montgomery.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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