NonMarital Property, Maintenance: CROFT V. CROFT (COA 11/2/2007)

CROFT V. CROFT
FAMILY LAW:  MARITAL/NON MARITAL PROPERTY; MAINTENANCE

2006-CA-001403
PUBLISHED; REVERSING AND REMANDING
PANEL: DIXON PRESIDING; KELLER, GRAVES CONCUR
COUNTY: CALDWELL
DATE RENDERED: 11/02/2007

Wife appealed an order dividing marital property, denying maintenance, and restoring non-marital property. First, Wife argued that the TC erred in finding that the marital residence was Husband’s non-marital property. CA agreed with Wife and reversed and remanded on this issue. Husband purchased the house and adjoining lot before the couple was married. However, the mortgage was paid off after the marriage, with marital funds. CA reasoned that the TC should have acknowledged this fact and apportioned some of the value of the property as marital. Also, the couple made several, post marriage, improvements to the house. Therefore, Wife claimed the increase in value should be considered marital property. Husband argued that the improvements were just regular maintenance and “were not substantial enough to warrant an increase in value.” CA opined that a TC needs only to determine that the increase in value was due to improvements and not just economic conditions in order for the property to qualify as marital property. Absent clear and convincing evidence that the increased value was due to economic conditions alone the property should be considered marital.

Next, Wife argued it was error for the TC to deny her claim for permanent maintenance. TC held that considering the length of the marriage ( the parties were married in 1997) and the division of property maintenance was not appropriate. CA held that the TC’s decision was not an abuse of discretion because it was supported by substantial evidence.

Finally, Wife argued that the TC erred because it did not divide the property proportionately. CA held that the TC did not err in its division of property. CA opined that husband had presented sufficient evidence that certain items in his possession were his non-marital property. Additionally, wife provided no evidence that any of that property was marital.

Digested by Linda Dixon Bullock
Diana L. Skaggs + Associates

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