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Layne v. Layne

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 13, 2017

Ralph Monty Layne, Jr., Appellant/Cross-Appellee-Petitioner,
Sudie Mae Layne, Appellee/Cross-Appellant-Respondent.

         Appeal 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

          Najam, Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] 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 one issue:

1. Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it divided the marital estate.

         And 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").

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] 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 2005.

         [¶4] 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 disability.
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 Date).
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."
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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 $134, 111.62.
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.
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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 dissipated assets.
35. The parties own certain assets and owe certain liabilities, which should be equitably divided between them.
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. 2008).
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 ...

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