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November 1, 2005
Case Law Development: Division of Jointly Titled Investment Assets
Husband brought into the marriage a portfolio of assets worth about $1.25 million. He generated substantial income during the marriage by investing that portfolio in various assets, including real estate which he developed and resold. He jointly titled a number of the assets purchased from these investment "as an estate planning device." Upon their divorce, the trial court awarded nearly all the assets to Husband on the theory that he had brought these assets into the marriage and that he had rebutted the presumption of gift that arises from joint titling of property. The trial court also considered husband's testimony that he and wife had an oral premarital agreement that she would make no claim to his investments. In what looks like a "return to go" form of equity, the trial court concluded that, by awarding wife $138,500 of marital assets, the court placed her "in a substantially better position than she was at the time she entered the marriage. The Defendant, however, will be in approximately the same position he was at the time the marriage began."
The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the trial court's decision, noting Wyoming's very strong deference to trial court discretion in the equitable division of property. The case would make for interesting class speculation as to how the outcome would differ under different state distribution schemes.
DeJohn v. DeJohn, 2005 WY 140; 2005 Wyo. LEXIS 166 (October 26, 2005)
Opinion on the web at http://courts.state.wy.us/2005opn/2005WY140.pdf (Last visited November 1, 2005 bgf)