COA upholds unequal division of assets after 24-day marriage

A dispute over the division of assets from a marriage that lasted less than one month has ended with the Indiana Court of Appeals upholding a trial court’s decision to rule against the presumption of the equal division of the marital estate.

In Jennifer Rose v. William D. Bozeman, Sr., 18A-DN-1085, newlyweds Jennifer Rose and William Bozeman purchased a house in Fishers in July 2017 that was titled in both of their names. The couple separated after 24 days of marriage and three days after moving into the home, with Bozeman giving Rose $30,000.

Rose, who did not financially contribute to the purchase of the nearly $500,000 home, lived at the house rent-free during the pendency of the divorce proceedings, while Bozeman paid the taxes and the costs of painting that was necessary to sell the house. In all, Bozeman contributed more than $3 million in assets to the marriage and was awarded all assets, other than the house and the increase in the value of assets during the marriage, in the divorce.

However, because Rose’s name was on the deed, the Hamilton Superior Court ordered that both parties receive equal shares of the net proceeds from the sale of the house. Bozeman filed a motion to correct error on the equal division of the net proceeds, noting he had “put up all the money for the purchase just two (2) weeks before the divorce case was filed.” The Hamilton Superior Court granted his motion and amended the dissolution decree to give Rose $35,000 of the net proceeds, with the remaining balance going to Boseman.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the grant of Bozeman’s motion to correct error on Wednesday, with Judge Patricia Riley first addressing Rose’s argument that it was not erroneous for the trial court to grant the motion without “specify(ing) the general reasons therefor.” Relying on Pickett v. Pickett, 470 N.E.2d 751, 756 9Ind. Ct. App. 1984), Riley said that error was harmless, as Rose did not demonstrate prejudice.

The court also upheld the adjustment of the division of the marital estate, rejecting Rose’s argument that the trial court did not consider all of the relevant statutory factors.

“The extremely short duration of the marriage, the substantial property and financial contribution by Bozeman to the marriage versus the very limited assets of Rose only speak to the first two statutory factors of I.C. section 31-15-7-5,” Riley wrote. “The twenty-four-day term of married life is simply too short to even evaluate the other factors as the economic circumstances and earning abilities of the parties would not yet have been impacted.”

“… In light of the presumption that the trial court considered all statutory factors and in the absence of any evidence supporting Rose’s allegation, we must conclude that the trial court applied the law and Rose’s claim amounts to nothing more than speculation,” she said.

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