Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How does Indiana value the marital pot?

The following from Mathes v. Mathes (Ind.App. 2008; PDF format) sums up the general outlines on Indiana's law of dividing the marital pot quite well. Strictly speaking, this is how Indiana's appellate courts will review a property division.

We apply a strict standard of review to a trial court’s distribution of property upon dissolution. Wilson v. Wilson, 732 N.E.2d 841, 844 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000). The division of marital assets is a matter within the sound discretion of the trial court. Hyde v. Hyde, 751 N.E.2d 761, 765 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001). The party challenging the trial court’s property division bears the burden of proof, and must overcome a strong presumption that the court complied with the property division statute4 by considering each of the statutory factors. Id. Indeed, the presumption that the trial court correctly followed the law and made all proper considerations in dividing the marital estate is one of the strongest presumptions on appeal. Spivey v. Topper, 876 N.E.2d 781, 787 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007). Thus, we will reverse only if there is no rational basis for the award. Although the circumstances may have justified a different property distribution, we may not substitute our judgment for that of the trial court. Id. Finally, in deciding whether the division of property is just and reasonable, we will look at the trial court’s decision as a whole, not item by item. Akers v. Akers, 729 N.E.2d 1029, 1034 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000).

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