When a court considers a couples’ divorce, it looks at all the assets acquired between the two parties. Separate property cannot be distributed; marital property, however, will be split accordingly between the parties.
Recently, in Jefferson County, in McMillan v. McMillan, the Court of Civil Appeals considered whether property bought after filing of a divorce but prior to trial is separate or marital property. The parties married in 2006 and divorced following the wife’s allegations of adultery and physical abuse against the husband. At the time of trial, the wife was working for another florist, earning between $1,500 and $2,000 per month. The husband, was earning substantially more – $17,500 per month and had wagered over $250,000 at various casino visits during the course of the divorce proceedings.
Two weeks after the divorce complaint was filed in October 2014, the husband formed McMillan Cemeteries. In February 2014, McMillan Cemeteries purchased Zion Memorial Gardens Cemetery and New Grace Hill Cemetery for $130,000. He also purchased Sunrise Memorial Gardens for $50,000 and stock in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery and for $150,000. Based upon all of this, the trial court entered a judgment that divided the parties’ property, ordered the husband to pay $1,000 per month in child support, to pay periodic alimony in the amount of $4,000 per month and to pay the wife a total of $100,000 alimony in gross. The husband appealed.
The husband’s first argument was that the cemeteries purchased after the filing of the divorce action was filed should have been treated as separate property. However, the Court concluded that property acquired during parties’ separation is still included in the marital estate (to be considered at the court’s discretion). Because the wife had contributed to the prior businesses that had helped fund the purchase of the new business and because the husband had failed to pay pendente lite alimony and had used the money instead to take regular gambling trips, the Court concluded that the inclusion of these businesses in the estate was proper.
The husband also challenged the trial court’s award of periodic alimony. The Court here deferred to the trial court’s fact-finding power in that it was allowed to take into account several factors, such as the parties’ standard of living, the money needed to supplement the wife’s income, and the wife’s allegations of adultery and physical abuse. The Court also affirmed the award of periodic alimony.
The main takeaway here comes from the husband’s first argument. Property purchased during the pendency of a divorce action may be included in the estate, if the court sees fit (as it did here). Because of all the wife’s business contributions and the husband’s improper money management, the Court found the inclusion of these businesses proper in the marital estate for division.