The division of martial property can be one of the more complex aspects of any divorce proceeding. In Thomas v. Thomas, a case from the Delaware Supreme Court, Husband was an independent contractor for a financial services company with an annual income of around $60,000 per year. Wife had two part-time jobs at which she earned $16,700 annually.
In March of 2012, Wife filed a motion for interim alimony. In that motion, Wife stated that she had inherited $450,000. The parties had agreed that Wife's inheritance was her separate property and not part of the martial estate. Husband argued that, while the money may not be part of the marital estate, it did mean that she was not dependent upon his support, since she had nearly $500,000 in the bank. The court factored in the interest income of 2.2 percent from the money in Wife's bank account and ordered Husband to pay just over $2,000 a month in spousal support.
As our family law attorneys in Birmingham can explain, Alabama state law provides that temporary support orders are called Pendende Lite orders and are designed to keep the family in the same home environment and lifestyle that existed while the parties were living together as husband and wife.
In Thomas, Husband filed a motion to reconsider the court's recent order and stated that, on Wife's financial report, she declared that she had nearly $630,000 in that bank account and just over $5,000 in a separate bank account. He argued that the additional money in her accounts would change the amount of interest she received each month and should therefore reduce his monthly support obligation. The court denied his motion.
In August of the same year, Husband stopped making his monthly payments, and Wife filed a motion to show cause, asking that Husband be held in contempt. During a hearing on this motion, Husband testified that he had been living with his girlfriend and paying all of her expenses, as she was currently unemployed. He also paid for the care of her five cats.
The court entered a final order of alimony and the division of marital property in May of 2013. Wife was granted 60 percent of the property, because the marital home was a gift from Wife's parents and husband had a higher income. The monthly alimony payments were set at $949 per month. The Husband was also found in contempt and ordered to pay the arrearage of around $10,000 in past due support. Husband was ordered to pay wife's costs and fees associated with the contempt hearing, and Husband filed an appeal.
On appeal, the court looked at the issue of whether the trial court abused its discretion in not making an even division of the martial estate. The appeals court found that there was no abuse of discretion in considering the fact that the home was a gift from Wife's parents in reaching a determination.
With respect to the issue of including Wife's inheritance in the calculation, the appeals court held that the judge did err by not including the principal, rather than just the interest, on the money in her account.
Thomas v. Thomas, October 1, 2014, Supreme Court of Delaware