In re the Marriage of: Michael O. Hall, Appellant-Respondent,
Susan M. Hall, Appellee-Petitioner
Appeal from the Hancock Circuit Court. The Honorable Richard D. Culver, Judge. Case No. 30C01-1311-DR-1994.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Nicole A. Zelin, Pritzke & Davis, LLP., Greenfield, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Michael C. Cooley, Dawn E. Wellman, Allen Wellman McNew Harvey, LLP, Greenfield, Indiana.
Crone, Judge. Friedlander, J., and Kirsch, J., concur.
[¶ 1] Michael O. Hall (" Husband" ) appeals the trial court's division of property upon the dissolution of his marriage to Susan M. Hall (" Wife" ). Specifically, Husband challenges the trial court's conclusion that a written agreement between the parties providing for certain property rights in the event of the dissolution of the marriage constitutes a valid and enforceable reconciliation agreement. Finding no clear error, we affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
[¶ 2] The evidence favorable to the trial court's judgment indicates that Husband and Wife married on March 2, 2004. Approximately eight months later, Husband became incarcerated. In December 2004, Wife sought the advice of counsel to pursue the dissolution of the marriage. Wife informed Husband that she intended to dissolve the marriage due to his untruthfulness regarding his finances and criminal history, and also because of the parties' separation. Husband did not want the marriage to be dissolved. Wife was adamant about dissolving the marriage and conveyed this to Husband. Husband told Wife that he would do anything to make her more comfortable with him. It was Husband's idea that the parties could make an agreement that would give Wife financial protection in the event of a future divorce. Wife agreed to no longer pursue a dissolution of marriage in exchange for such an agreement.
[¶ 3] Wife asked her counsel to draft the type of agreement that Husband and Wife had discussed. When counsel was unresponsive for several months, Wife decided that she would need to draft the agreement herself. Before doing so, however, Wife had numerous discussions with Husband about each party's assets and the type of information that would be included in the agreement. Thereafter, Wife drafted a document titled " Postnuptial Agreement" (" the Agreement" ), dated April 3, 2005, wherein the parties agreed to a distribution of real and personal property in the event of dissolution. The Agreement provided that the parties " agree to keep separate any properties or assets that either party brought to the marriage or incur during the marriage in separate name and/or separate business or farm names." Appellant's App. at 37. The Agreement stated that " [b]oth parties agree to keep properties and assets separate and lay no claim to the other[']s property or assets in the event of divorce or separation or legal action against the individuals...." Id. Further, " [b]oth parties agree to be jointly responsible for those properties and assets acquired under joint names of ownership from this time forward." Id. The Agreement provided an itemized list of the assets held by each party on the date of the Agreement.
[¶ 4] Wife mailed the Agreement to Husband for his review and signature. Husband reviewed the Agreement and signed it before a notary public in the Department of Correction on April 6, 2005. After signing the Agreement, Husband mailed it back to Wife. Wife signed the Agreement after receiving it from Husband. After the Agreement was executed, Wife no longer pursued the dissolution of the parties' marriage.
[¶ 5] While Husband remained incarcerated, Wife assisted him with his financial affairs, retained his personal belongings at her residence, and continued to visit him in the Department of Correction. Husband was released from incarceration in June 2006 and returned to live with Wife. The parties resided together as a married couple from the date of Husband's release ...