In the Matter of the Marriage of SHONDALAE BENSON, Petitioner-Respondent, And PHILLIP BENSON, Respondent-Appellant
Submitted April 4, 2014
Lane County Circuit Court. 151309273. Mustafa T. Kasubhai, Judge.
George W. Kelly filed the brief for appellant.
Shondalae Benson filed the brief Pro se.
Before Duncan, Presiding Judge, and Wollheim, Judge, and Lagesen, Judge.
[263 Or.App. 555] LAGESEN, J.
Husband appeals from a dissolution judgment that awarded the marital home to husband but awarded an equalizing judgment for a quarter of the home's value to wife. He asserts that the trial court erred in concluding that wife had any interest in the house and, consequently, by entering the equalizing judgment in her favor. Reviewing for legal error, we conclude that the trial court did not apply the correct legal framework in determining what portion of the home's value to award to wife, and remand to the trial court to apply the correct legal framework to assess what portion, if any, of the home's value should be awarded to wife.
The parties represented themselves below and the record is minimal. The parties were married on October 2, 2009. At the time, they were living in a rental house and husband was paying the rent. Sometime within the year after they were married, in either 2009 or 2010, they purchased a house where they lived together until wife moved out in April 2013. After wife moved out, husband continued to live in the home with his son from a previous relationship. The house was purchased outright with funds generated by the sale of a home in Montana that husband had owned before the marriage; husband had purchased the Montana home using an inheritance that he received. Each year, husband paid the property taxes on the home, and it appears from the property tax statements in the record that the property was held in husband's name alone.
At the dissolution hearing, husband contended that he should be awarded the entirety of the home, in light of the facts that it had been acquired entirely with assets he had held prior to the marriage and that he had paid the property taxes using separately held funds.
Wife did not dispute that the house had been acquired with funds from the sale of husband's Montana house or that [263 Or.App. 556] husband had paid the property taxes with his own funds. Instead, wife requested that the trial court award her a quarter of the value of the house, " [b]ased on improvements that I have invested in the property and into the marriage." The trial court granted wife's request, explaining:
" It is appropriate to award the requested amount of the one quarter of the value of the home to [wife]. In the course of a marriage, that property which is acquired during the course of the marriage is marital property and needs to be divided equitably. And given [wife's] request for a one-quarter division, I will allow it.
" And that is $55,000."
On appeal, husband asserts that that analysis indicates that the trial court " misapplied applicable statutory and equitable considerations" in determining the portion of the value of the house to which wife is entitled, and that reversal is required for the court to reconsider the issue under the correct framework. See Githens and Githens, 227 Or.App. 73, 90, 204 P.3d 835, rev den, 347 Or. 42, 217 P.3d 688 (2009). Specifically, husband asserts that the trial court did not evaluate the proper disposition of the house under the framework that applies where, as here, a party seeks to rebut the ...