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In re Marriage of Fisher

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 16, 2014

IN RE: THE MARRIAGE OF HELEN FISHER Appellant-Petitioner, and RONALD FISHER, Appellee-Respondent

APPEAL FROM THE PORTER SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable John Shanahan, Judge Pro Temporare. Cause No. 64D02-0601-DR-808.

FOR APPELLANT: APRIL L. BOARD, Crown Point, Indiana.

FOR APPELLEE: JOHN W. PETERS, Portage, Indiana.

ROBB, Judge. BAKER, J., and KIRSCH, J., concur.

Page 430

OPINION

ROBB, Judge

Case Summary and Issues

Following dissolution of the marriage of Helen Fisher and Ronald Fisher, Helen appeals the trial court's division of property. Helen raises the following issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court abused its discretion in valuing and distributing

Page 431

an IRA account; and (2) whether the trial court abused its discretion by declining to deviate from the presumptive fifty-fifty split of marital assets. Concluding the trial court erred in its valuation and distribution of the IRA, but that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by dividing the marital assets evenly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Facts and Procedural History

Helen and Ronald were married on May 9, 1969. Ronald was a longtime employee for EJ& E Railway. He began working there in June 1962. In May 1993, Ronald was involved in a car accident resulting in disability. He retired from EJ& E two years later and received a lump sum pension payout that was rolled over into an IRA. Ronald's employment with EJ& E also entitles him pension benefits that are comprised of " Tier I" and " Tier II" benefits, which are disbursed monthly. For the purposes of these dissolution proceedings, Tier I benefits are non-divisible, but Tier II benefits are divisible.

Helen and Ronald filed for a dissolution of marriage on January 27, 2006. In March 2006, the parties entered into an agreement that allowed them to remain in the marital home together, during which time Ronald paid all expenses, including Helen's medical expenses, and provided Helen with $500 per month for spending money. In 2009, the marital home was sold, the parties were living separately, and Ronald was relieved of all financial responsibility for Helen. Ronald was receiving Tier I and Tier II benefits of approximately $2,229 per month ($1526 for Tier I and $703 for Tier II), while Helen was receiving a spousal annuity of approximately $1,079 per month. The parties agreed to allow the dissolution proceedings to remain pending until September 21, 2011, in order to maximize the estate and allow Helen to reach an age at which she could receive a divorced spouse annuity from the railway. Helen's divorced spouse annuity pays $600 per month, and that amount will increase to $853 per month on September 1, 2015.

In the two years prior to final dissolution, Ronald took two distributions from the IRA in 2012 and 2013 in the amounts of $19,046.68 and $17,695.13, respectively. A final hearing was held on November 18, 2013, at which time the value of the IRA was $160,925.37. On February 27, 2014, the trial court entered its final dissolution order and distributed the marital assets as follows:

5. The sum of $191,409.40 has been distributed to the parties from the sale proceeds of the marital residence. The Wife has received $121,409.00 and the Husband has received $70,000.
6. The Wife received her 2000 Pontiac automobile with an agreed value of $4,700.00; and the Husband received his 2004 Chevrolet automobile with an agreed value of $8,500.00.
7. The Court finds that the parties previously divided their personal property and that same was done fairly and equitably.
8. The parties have an IRA account with Western Southern with total value of $174,031.30. The coverture value thereof is 77.42%, or $134,735.03; from which the Husband received distributions in 2012 and 2013 in the total amount of $38,093.36. The Court ...

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