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Flower v. Flower - 2/25/2010

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds that the Family Court May Order a Substantially Unequal Distribution of Marital Assets and Debts Based On, Among Other Factors, the Relative Contributions Made By Each Spouse to the Community, the Division of Other Marital Assets and Debts, and the Length of the Marriage.

Husband and Wife married in 2006.  At the time, Husband and Wife each owned a residence.  After the wedding, Husband deeded his residence to the community.  The community also incurred $61,000 in debt during the marriage, largely stemming from improvements to Wife’s residence.  Thirteen months after the marriage, Husband filed a petition for annulment and Wife filed a cross-petition for dissolution.  The trial court denied the petition for annulment, and split the community property.  In so doing, the trial court awarded Husband’s residence solely to Husband, but required Husband to pay all but $16,000 of the debt incurred to improve Wife’s residence.  Wife appealed.

The Arizona Appeals Court affirmed the trial court’s division of property.  The Court explained that ordinarily marital assets and debts should be divided equally, but in rare circumstances the family court may make an unequal distribution.  In considering whether to make an unequal distribution, the family court should consider, along with any other relevant factor, the relative contributions made by each spouse to the community, the division of other marital assets and debts, and the length of the marriage.  Here, Wife did not claim that she made any contribution, monetary or otherwise, to the community, the trial court made Husband largely responsible for the community debt to improve Wife’s residence, and the marriage began deteriorating only eight months after it began.  Accordingly, the family court did not abuse its discretion in awarding Husband’s residence solely to Husband, despite that Husband deeded the residence to the community.

Judge Brown authored the opinion; Judges Hall and Portley concurred.

Posted By: Michael S. Catlett

Posted On: 3/24/2010