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In re Marriage of Van Winkel

Court of Appeals of Oregon

January 10, 2018

In the Matter of the Marriage of Sherie Lynn VAN WINKEL, aka Sherie L. Van Winkel Petitioner-Appellant, and Andrew Louie VAN WINKEL, aka Andrew L. Van Winkel, Respondent-Respondent.

          Argued and submitted February 7, 2017

         Lane County Circuit Court 151500631; Clara L. Rigmaiden, Judge.

          Michael Vergamini argued the cause and fled the briefs for appellant.

          Stacey D. Smith argued the cause and fled the brief for respondent.

          Before DeHoog, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge. [*]

         [289 Or. 806] Case Summary: Wife appeals from a general judgment dissolving the parties' marriage. She challenges the trial court's division of the marital property, contending that the court abused its discretion by awarding husband one-half of the equity in the home that she bought before the marriage. Held: The trial court applied the correct methodology and the resulting award fell within the range of legally permissible outcomes. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

         [289 Or. 807]

          DEHOOG, P. J.

         Wife appeals from a general judgment dissolving the parties' marriage. She challenges the trial court's division of the marital property, contending that the court erred in awarding husband one-half of the equity in the house that she bought before the marriage. We conclude that the trial court applied the correct methodology and that the resulting award fell within the range of legally permissible outcomes. We therefore affirm.

         The salient facts are largely undisputed. In June 2008, before the parties married, wife moved into a house that husband owned in California. For the two years that they lived there, the parties kept separate bank accounts and split the bills evenly. After losing his job in November 2008, husband allowed the California house to go into foreclosure and filed for bankruptcy.

         In 2010, the parties, who still were not married, moved to Eugene, where wife had purchased a replacement home. They had travelled to Oregon the year before to find a house to buy, but they were initially unsuccessful. Wife's father subsequently found the Eugene house, which, although a "fixer-upper, " appeared to be a good fit for the parties and their children.[1] With her father's financial assistance, wife purchased the home in March 2010. Wife had asked her father to gift her a portion of her anticipated inheritance. Wife's father agreed to gift her the $43, 600 needed to close on the home, and wife took out a mortgage to pay the remaining balance of $174, 400. Wife purchased the property solely in her name because, as the parties had discussed, husband's recent bankruptcy made him a poor candidate for a loan.

         At trial, the parties testified about their relative contributions to renovations that they made to the house. Husband moved to the new home several weeks in advance of wife and the children to complete work on an unusable bathroom, and he testified to having made other extensive renovations in the years that followed. He acknowledged, [289 Or. 808] however, that his own father, as well as wife, her father, and her stepfather, all helped with various projects; wife also testified that much of the work was done by professionals. Husband further testified that he did many of the renovations after the parties were married, including work on the family room, the kitchen, and the master bedroom and bath. He estimated that about half of the renovations were completed after the parties married.

         The parties married in June 2012. At that time, wife, who had acquired the house in her previous name, signed the property over to herself in her new, married name. The parties continued to split bills evenly after they married. Both before and after the parties married, husband made monthly transfers of at least $1, 215 into wife's account. According to husband, those payments were intended to cover the mortgage payments of $1, 204.83. Wife disputed husband's contention that the payments were specifically designated for the mortgage, and testified that they simply went to husband's half of the bills. Wife acknowledged, however, that those bills included the mortgage payment. After the parties married, husband began depositing his entire paycheck-which was more than $1, 215-directly into wife's account.

         After hearing the evidence and arguments, the trial court found that the Eugene home was a premarital asset of wife and, therefore, the presumption of equal contribution did not apply. The court then considered whether there had been sufficient commingling of energy, time, and financial or other resources, such that a "just and equitable" distribution would require awarding husband a ...


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