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High court rules on post-judgment interest

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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer to a case in order to clarify precedents on post-judgment interest in dissolution cases. The high court held that the dissolution statutes give a court the option to either assess interest or not in the course of fashioning a just division of assets.

The issue the high court decided in Robert Rovai v. Ann Marie Rovai, No. 45S03-0812-CV-628, was whether the statute directing interest on money judgments compels that post-judgment interest must be paid whenever money changes hands pursuant to a dissolution decree, or whether the dissolution statutes give the court discretion on whether to impose interest.

"We see little reason for transporting the post-judgment interest statute into the equitable world of dissolutions, where some court orders look a good deal like civil judgments and others bear no resemblance," wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

Judicial decrees that assign debts, personal property, and real estate represent a more complex allocation of economic values, and orders that reflect social objectives are added to these.

"In such judicial decrees (and we rate the one before us as quite typical), where courts allot everything from physical objects to responsibility for debts of differing character to conditional rights of residence, the time value of money acquires a much more nuanced meaning than it does when a court hears a credit card collection case and says, 'Judgment for $5,800,'" he wrote.

In the distribution of assets following the dissolution of the Rovais' marriage, Ann Marie was ordered to pay more than $36,000 to Robert when their children became emancipated, she voluntarily sold the marital home, or lived with someone else in the home. Robert argued he was entitled to post-judgment interest running from the date of the dissolution decree.

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