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IN RE MARRIAGE OF MEYER

Court upholds district courts objective property valuation in divorce.

October 14th, 2011

APPELLATE COURT UPHOLDS DISTRICT COURT'S OBJECTIVE PROPERTY VALUATION.

In a recent Iowa Court of Appeals case, the court affirmed the district court's objective valuation of property when there is confusing and unconvincing evidence on the price of the property in question. The court also upheld that spousal support can be labeled "rehabilitative" even if it cannot be characterized as purely rehabilitative. The court did hold that the trial court erred in not giving proper credit to the husband for his premarital property.

Husband and wife divorced after a ten year marriage. In the divorce proceedings, three pieces of farm equipment did not have value assigned to them because of confusing and contradictory evidence shown at trial. The court previously stated the party, who has possession of the property, is responsible for the burden to produce clear proof of the valuations of the property. The husband, who had control of the property, was unable to produce valuation of the farm equipment at trial. The district court did not err in placing a reasonable valuation within the permissible range of evidence and valuation of assets, although it was near the maximum value of the property.

Rehabilitative spousal support was given to the wife for a total of 36 months, despite the fact that the wife had a full time job during nearly the entirety of the marriage and her own bank account. Rehabilitative spousal support is a way of supporting an economically dependent spouse through a limited period of re-education or retraining following divorce, thereby creating incentive and opportunity for that spouse to become self-supporting. Here, the wife had no desire in returning to school or obtaining additional training. The wife did, however, rely on her husband financially throughout their ten year marriage, in spite of her employment and control of her personal bank account. Because she relied on her husband financially, spousal support was warranted to create a transition period that would ease the wife while she became self-supportive, even though the court could not characterize the support award as purely rehabilitative or traditional.

Before marriage, the husband owned a residence in which the couple resided for three years before the house was sold. The proceeds from the sale of that house went towards the mortgage of the couple's new home, where they resided until the divorce. Iowa is an equitable distribution state. They divide all property that exists at the time of the divorce, other than gifts and inheritances. Property that is brought into the marriage is one of the factors the court will consider when dividing the property during a divorce. The appellate court held that since the husband's pre-marriage house did not commingle during the marriage, and did not lose its identity, he should be entitled to its value despite the 10 year length of the marriage.

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