from the St. Joseph Superior Court The Honorable Steven L.
Hostetler, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 71D07-1401-DR-37
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT/ CROSS-APPELLEE Robert J. Palmer May
Oberfell Lorber Mishawaka, Indiana
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE/ CROSS-APPELLANT Gregory K. Blanford
The Blanford Law Office South Bend, Indiana
of the Case
Ralph Monty Layne, Jr. ("Husband") appeals the
trial court's final decree, which ended his marriage to
Sudie Mae Layne ("Wife"). Husband presents three
issues for our review, which we consolidate and restate as
1. Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it
divided the marital estate.
Wife presents three issues on cross-appeal, which we
consolidate and restate as:
2. Whether the trial court erred when it denied her motion
for partial summary judgment on the issue of the
enforceability of the parties' premarital agreement.
3. Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it
excluded from the marital estate both the marital residence
and a John Deere all-terrain vehicle ("ATV").
and Procedural History
In late 1997, Husband and Wife were engaged to be married,
and, sometime before February 11, 1998, they began living
together in a residence Husband owned. On February 11, 1998,
the parties executed a premarital agreement whereby Husband
would retain sole ownership of his residence in the event
that Wife "vacate[d] the premises." Appellee's
App. Vol. II at 7. Husband and Wife finally married in August
On January 24, 2014, Husband filed a petition for dissolution
of the marriage. Following a hearing on May 16, 2016, the
court entered a decree of dissolution and found and concluded
in relevant part as follows:
12. During their marriage Husband and Wife commingled some of
their assets, shared responsibility for the payment of
marital debt and did some rehabilitation and remodeling work
on Husband's real estate located at 23101 Roosevelt Road,
South Bend, Indiana (the "Roosevelt Road
Property"). . . .
13. Beginning in 2008, the parties began experiencing
financial difficulties. For some time thereafter the
parties' monthly obligations totaled approximately $8,
000.00 a month, but with a restructuring of that debt Wife
brought it down to approximately $5, 000.00 a month.
Husband's sole income during that period, and continuing
to now, is approximately $1, 700.00 per month from
14. During the later years of the marriage, when the
parties' income was less than their expenses, Wife
repeatedly asked Husband for financial assistance in paying
the bills, but such assistance was not sufficiently provided.
At the same time, the parties' assets were also being
used to support Wife's business that ultimately failed.
Ultimately Wife filed bankruptcy (prior to the Petition
15. At some point prior to the Petition Date, Husband was
named as a POD payee of certificates of deposit representing
the funds of Husband's elderly parents. The amount of
those funds total approximately $302, 000.00.
16. When Husband's father died in July of 2013, before
the Petition Date, Husband inherited his parents' home on
Prairie Avenue in South Bend. Husband's mother had died
previously, on February 18, 2013.
17. Shortly after his father's death, Husband gave his
daughter [from a previous relationship] roughly $202, 000.00
from the amounts he received upon his father's death.
After his father's death, Husband gave his son [from a
previous relationship] the home on Prairie Avenue, as well as
the contents thereof, that Husband had inherited from his
father prior to the Petition Date. The clearest evidence is
that the transfer to Husband's son did not conclude until
after the Petition Date. Therefore, the Prairie Avenue
Property is part of the marital estate.
18. The home and contents that Husband gave to his son had a
value of approximately $45, 000.00. The evidence as to value
was conflicting and incomplete. However, that figure was used
in Wife's Contentions and would seem to be a reasonable
figure based on the evidence presented.
19. Husband purchased a Gator all-terrain vehicle in March or
April, 2014. He paid approximately $17, 000.00 cash for the
vehicle. Six months later he sold the vehicle to his son for
$9, 000.00. The Gator was acquired by Husband after the
Petition Date and is not part of the Marital Estate.
20. Prior to the Petition Date, Father gave to his daughter
approximately $202, 000.00 from the moneys received upon the
death of Husband's parents. However, Husband's
daughter right away transferred $20, 000.000 of that amount
back to Husband. The Court finds that the net transfer to
Husband's daughter was $182, 000.000. Thereafter, Husband
borrowed money from daughter during the pendency of this
proceeding of at least $30, 000.00.
* * *
25. There was no evidence from which the Court can determine
the value of the Roosevelt Road Property at the time the
parties signed the "Prenuptial Agreement."
* * *
27. Husband's father's will makes no mention of a
desire to pass on money to the Husband's children.
28. Other than the insurance declarations referred to above,
there was no evidence presented by either party as to the
nature, extent and value of the personal property in the
marital residence as of the date of final separation. The
only evidence presented as to the value of the Roosevelt Road
real estate was Husband's testimony that it is now worth
$350, 000.00. As that was the only evidence presented as to
value, the Court accepts that as the value of the Roosevelt
Road Property as of the date of final separation. The
mortgage balance as of the Petition Date was approximately
29. On the Petition Date the parties jointly owned a property
located at 8622/8633 East Smith Drive, Syracuse, Indiana (the
"Lake Property"). There was no evidence presented
as [to] the value of the Lake Property. However, Husband
testified that he believes that the value of the Lake
Property is less than the amount owed. Wife's Contentions
would indicate that she believes that there is $31, 117.00 in
equity in the Lake Property. Husband's Exhibit 9
indicates that the indebtedness owing the Fifth Third Bank
secured by the Lake Property was $378, 882.85 as of the
Petition Date. There was testimony by Wife that there were
contents, such as furniture, missing from the Lake Property.
Wife also acknowledged that she removed a stainless steel
refrigerator from the Lake Property. There was no evidence
presented as to the value of the Lake Property Contents,
missing or otherwise.
30. When Husband filed his petition for dissolution of
marriage, there was approximately $100, 000.00 in his bank
account - the balance that remained after giving $202, 000.00
to his daughter.
31. Also as of the Petition Date, Husband also had under his
control $10, 830.00 that remained in his parents'
checking account following their deaths.
32. There was no evidence from which a value of any personal
property can be determined, except for Husband's opinion
as to the values of the motor vehicles discussed below.
* * *
34. Husband is solely liable for the [parties'] Unsecured
Debts (which total $56, 229.77) because of Wife's
bankruptcy. Some of the Unsecured Debts were incurred by Wife
without Husband's knowledge. However, the evidence as to
which debts were incurred by Wife without Husband's
knowledge was imprecise, but considered as part of the
Court's conclusion discussed below that both parties
35. The parties own certain assets and owe certain
liabilities, which should be equitably divided between them.
ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION
A premarital agreement under Indiana law is "an
agreement between prospective spouses that is executed in
contemplation of marriage" and which "becomes
effective upon marriage." I.C. [§] 31-11-3-2.
Indiana favors such agreements, as "promoting domestic
happiness and adjusting property questions that otherwise
would often be the source of litigation." Boetsma v.
Boetsma, 768 N.E.2d 1016 (Ind.Ct.App. 2002), (internal
citations omitted). So long as the agreement is not
unconscionable, and entered into freely, without fraud,
duress or misrepresentation, the agreement will be liberally
construed to give effect to the spouses' intentions.
Brackin v. Brackin, 894 N.E.2d 206 (Ind.Ct.App.
While the Agreement is not very artfully drafted, the
parties' intentions can be discerned. First of all, they
referred to the Agreement as a "prenuptial"
agreement both in the title and the body of the agreement.
That term has a generally recognized meaning. Second, Husband
and Wife clearly agreed that the Wife was not to have any
interest whatsoever in the property located at 23101
Roosevelt Road (the "Roosevelt Road Property"), or
any of the improvements thereon. The agreement is also clear
that the parties ...