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Judges order modification of dissolution decree

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found a trial court abused its discretion when it didn’t consider a $160,000 change in value of a property when calculating marital assets and distributing marital property.

In Patrick M. McGrath v. Linda S. McGrath, No. 46A03-1008-DR-429, Patrick McGrath challenged the LaPorte Superior Court’s use of a 2005 valuation of property he and his wife Linda purchased on Shawmut Avenue in Michigan City in 1994. When Linda filed for divorce in 2005, the Shawmut property was appraised at $389,000. In November 2009, it was appraised at $229,000.

The trial court stated at the final hearing on the petition for dissolution that it intended to divide the marital property equally. The court entered the decree using the 2005 appraisal amount when dividing the martial property. The court ordered Linda to transfer her interest in the real estate to Patrick.

Patrick filed a motion to correct error, claiming the court should have used the 2009 appraisal value and by not doing so, the court deviated from an equal division of marital assets and Linda would actually receive more than 62 percent of the marital pot.

A trial court may select any date between the filing of the petition for dissolution and the date of the final hearing for purposes of choosing a date upon which to value marital assets, Judge Elaine Brown wrote. She also noted that the trial court is required to divide the marital estate in a just and reasonable manner, with an equal division presumed to be just and reasonable.

The appellate judges found the $160,000 decline in the value of the property represented a significant departure from an equal division of the marital estate. The trial court’s division didn’t account for the decreased value during the pendency of the proceedings and ultimately rendered an unequal division of marital property, which was contrary to the court’s stated intent, wrote Judge Brown.

Judge Ezra Friedlander concurred in result in a separate opinion, stressing that his vote was based upon the internal inconsistency in the trial court’s division of property. He noted that the trial court has discretion to choose the valuation date and discretion to divide an estate evenly or not, depending on particular circumstances.

“It may not, however purport to achieve a current equal division by assigning a value to an asset that does not comport with current reality,” he wrote.

The Court of Appeals remanded with instructions to enter a modified decree of dissolution or an amendment to the decree reflecting an equal property division of the martial estate considering the change in value of the Shawmut property.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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