ILNews

Court splits on first impression dissipation case

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An Indiana Court of Appeals judge dissented today from his colleagues' decision that a spouse may be found to have dissipated property after refusing to sign and file joint tax returns because the judge believes the ruling is "bad law and bad policy."

In Anna Mae Hardebeck v. James A. Hardebeck, No. 48A04-0904-CV-212, Judges Edward Najam and Michael Barnes adopted the holding that whether a spouse's failure to file a joint tax return constitutes dissipation under Indiana Code Section 31-15-7-5(4) must be determined from a review of the facts and circumstances in each case. The majority relied on caselaw from Pennsylvania and Tennessee since it was the first time the issue had been addressed in Indiana courts.

The dissolution court ruled Anna Mae Hardebeck dissipated marital assets when she refused to file a joint income tax return for 2006 and 2007 with her husband, James. That cost James more than $8,600 in state and federal income taxes. James filed for dissolution in 2008.

"As in any case involving an allegation of dissipation, the court should consider relevant factors including whether the expenditure benefited the marriage or was made for a purpose entirely unrelated to the marriage, the timing of the transaction, whether the expenditure was excessive or de minimis, and whether the dissipating party intended to hide, deplete, or divert the marital asset," wrote Judge Najam.

The majority noted Anna Mae never suggested she filed her tax returns separately to protect herself because James' returns were fraudulent, and she apparently refused to file their taxes jointly out of spite.

But Anna Mae was within her statutory rights in refusing to file a joint tax return, Judge James Kirsch wrote in his dissent, and she may have been acting with great prudence in doing so.

"I believe that requiring a spouse to execute a joint income tax return in such circumstances and to incur the joint and several liability that accompanies filing such a return, including any deficiencies resulting from it, any penalties assessed because of it and any additional tax liability subsequently imposed on it is bad law and bad policy," he wrote.

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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