The Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed in part, but also reversed part of a trial court’s ruling that erred by excluding a Parent Plus Loan liability from a marital estate.
The case involved Robert Meyer’s dissolution of marriage from Eileen East.
The appellate court found the Dubois Circuit Court properly included Meyer’s inheritance, a grill and a ring as marital assets, but erred by excluding a Parent Plus Loan liability from the marital estate.
The court also found the trial court properly valued the marital residence but erred in valuing East’s Indiana Public Retirement System pension.
Eileen East and Robert Meyer got married in 1989 and have three adult children.
East was a teacher during the marriage and had a INPRS pension. Meyer owned a plumbing company, but then started working part-time eight years ago at an excavating company.
In July 2020, East filed for divorce ,and the final hearings were heard late 2021. Meyers had hired Dan Andrews, an expert on pension valuations, to value East’s INPRS pension.
He calculated that if East retired at 56, she would have a fixed $1,919.85 per month and, based on her life expectancy, would reach $507,353.43.
East proposed valuing the INPRS pension at $1,919.85 per month for the duration of the five-year guarantee only, or $115,191.
Both East and Meyer requested possession of the martial residence and offered different valuations for it. Meyer also requested equal division but to exclude the property he inherited from his parents. East proposed unequal distribution because of that.
Once they both were able to agree, the trial court appointed an appraiser.
Last year, the trial court ordered East’s pension valued at $115,191 and gave the martial residence to her.
It also included Meyer’s inheritance but excluded the Parent Plus Loan and ordered East to pay the debt in full. It ordered East to pay Meyer $114,319.97 as an equalization payment after it valued and divided the marital estate, except personal property.
In a separate order, the court divided the personal property equally and ordered Meyer to pay East $14,140 as an equalization payment. It then subtracted what he was ordered to pay from what East was ordered to pay and had her pay a final equalization payment of $100,179.97 within four months.
Meyer then filed a motion to correct error, which the trial court denied and clarified it purposefully excluded the Parent Plus Loan.
The trial court granted a stay regarding the equalization payment pending the appeal.
The first issue Meyer raised was whether the Dubois Circuit Court properly determined assets and liabilities to be included in the marital estate.
“The trial court was required to consider all property obtained prior to the filing of the petition,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote.
Meyer argued that his inheritance, which consisted of a bank account in his name with over $96,000 and stocks in two companies, should not have been included as marital property, nor should the Big Green Egg grill and a ring because they were gifts.
The appellate court found that the trial about did not abuse its discretion by including Meyer’s inheritance, the grill and the ring, but did abuse its discretion by excluding the Parent Plus Loan liability.
Both Meyer and East agreed the Parent Plus Loan should have been included and claimed it was erroneously excluded by the trial court.
The second issue Meyer brought to the court was whether the trial court properly valued certain assets of the marital estate.
“The trial court has broad discretion in ascertaining the value of property in a dissolution action, and we will not disturb its valuation absent an abuse of that discretion,” Tavitas wrote.
The final issue Meyer brought was whether the trial court properly divided the marital estate.
“The trial court’s decision to divide the marital pot equally was not based upon the proper valuation of the marital estate,” Tavitas wrote.
The appellate court reversed and remanded with instructions to reconsider the property division and distribution method of the INRPS pension.
The case is Robert L. Meyer v. Eileen M. (Meyer) East, 22A-DN-1762.