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Court erred in dividing husband’s accounts

December 7, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with a man that a dissolution court’s valuation and division of his pension and deferred tax savings plan was incorrectly calculated, but rejected his other claims stemming from his divorce.

Brad and Alexandra Barton filed for divorce in 2011 after six years of marriage. The divorce became final in 2014, with the dissolution court finding wife to be physically incapacitated to the point that spousal maintenance was justified. Husband was ordered to pay her $1,500 per month as well as more than $24,000 in attorney fees. The dissolution court found he had caused wife to incur extraordinary attorney fees by his failure to comply with discovery, switching attorneys and delaying the case. Wife remarried six weeks after the divorce was finalized.

Husband filed a motion for relief from judgment challenging the spousal support maintenance and attorney fees award. He also challenged the division of his pension and deferred tax savings plan.

In Brad Barton v. Alexandra Barton, 32A04-1412-DR-550, the appeals court found that the dissolution court erred in valuing and dividing the retirement plans. The dissolution court used the coverture fraction formula to divide the plans between the parties, but there were several errors in its application. It appears the trial court awarded wife the entire amount calculated using the formula instead of one half of the coverture portion. Regarding the pension, the trial court appears to have erroneously included what is already the coverture part of the pension.

"[W]e conclude that Husband has met his burden to show prima facie error in the dissolution court’s valuation and division of his pension and deferred tax savings plan. Accordingly, we reverse that part of the dissolution decree and remand with instructions for the dissolution court to include the entire value of each retirement asset in the marital estate, apply the coverture fraction formula to determine what portion of each asset is subject to division, and then either divide those amounts equally between the parties or state reasons why an equal division of marital property would not be just and reasonable,” Judge Terry Crone wrote.

The judges affirmed the dissolution decree in all other respects.

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