Sunday, December 8, 2013

In re Marriage of Roberts case brief

In re Marriage of Roberts case brief summary
670 N.E.2d 72 (1996)

Appellant wife appealed from the order of the St. Joseph Circuit Court (Indiana), which ruled that appellee husband's law degree was not property subject to distribution pursuant to their divorce. The husband appealed from the trial court's grant of attorney's fees to the wife and its denial of his motion for attorney's fees on the grounds that the wife's appeal was frivolous.


  • The court held that the party challenging a property division was required to overcome a strong presumption that the trial court complied with the applicable statute, and that the trial court's judgment would not be reversed unless clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom. 
  • The court agreed with the trial court that the husband's law degree did not constitute marital property. 
  • Despite the legislature's intent that property be interpreted as broadly inclusive, a degree, intangible and personal to the holder, did not possess the common characteristics of property. 
  • The potential worth of a degree was dependent upon the choice and availability of work, the talents and abilities of the holder, and myriad other factors. 
  • The trial court properly did not compensate the wife for dissipation of the marital estate in the amount she contributed to his education, as dissipation meant money spent foolishly or aimlessly. 
  • Any award greater than the marital assets was maintenance and was required to be authorized by statute. 
  • The wife's appeal was not frivolous, and the trial court's award to her of attorney's fees was within its discretion.
The court affirmed the property distribution awarded by the trial court.

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