COA orders man to transfer investment accounts to ex-wife

The Indiana Court of Appeals has ordered an Allen County man to transfer total ownership of three investment accounts to his ex-wife after finding that an original court order from 2011 required him to do so.

After Harold Bacchus and Fazia Deen-Bacchus were divorced, the Allen Superior Court entered an order in January 2011 finding the net worth of the marital property to be $1.4 million and giving Deen-Bacchus 55 percent and Bacchus 45 percent. Additionally, the court granted Deen-Bacchus three investment accounts worth roughly $455,000 in total.

Both parties moved to correct error, and in February 2012 the court reduced the net worth of the property to $1.35 million and divided it equally. Both parties raised arguments in an initial appeal, but despite that the grant of the investment accounts to Deen-Bacchus was not one of those arguments, Bacchus never distributed the accounts to his ex-wife.

After a hearing on Bacchus’ failure to distribute the accounts, the trial court entered an order in February 2016 holding that “(Wife) is entitled to receive the marital estate value of the accounts.” However, due to the delay in the transfer of the assets, the court ordered Bacchus to pay his ex-wife 1 percent per annum of the marital estate value of the assets, a total of roughly $18,500. Additionally, the court held that, “If (Husband) had elected to delay the transfer of that portion of the (investment) accounts in excess of the marital estate value, he would not be acting in violation of…the January 6, 2011 (Order).”

Deen-Bacchus appealed in Fazia Deen-Bacchus v. Harold M. Bacchus, Jr., 02A04-1608-DR-1867, challenging the court’s conclusion that in the original January 2011 order, the court had ordered her ex-husband to distribute only certain values from the investment accounts rather than transferring ownership of the accounts to her. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed Thursday, thus reversing the trial court’s order.

“We agree with Wife that the January 2011 order unambiguously set the investment accounts themselves, and not merely their values at the time, aside to Wife as her own assets,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the appellate panel. “While the January 2011 order necessarily identified both the investment accounts and values for those accounts, in ordering the distribution of the parties’ respective property and assets the courts unmistakably identified each of the investment accounts – without reference to the values for the accounts – as Wife’s ‘property.’”

Further, Najam wrote the trial court should have rejected Bacchus’ argument that the order was ambiguous because that argument was not timely raised. Bacchus did not raise his ambiguity argument in his motion to correct error or in the initial appeal.

Finally, the appellate panel rejected Bacchus’ argument that the February 2016 order should be affirmed based on the court’s finding that he had continued to make contributions to the investment accounts because there was no evidence to support that assertion. Thus, the case was remanded to the lower court with instructions to order Bacchus to transfer ownership of the accounts to his ex-wife.


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