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Pond v. Pond

November 6, 2009

DWAYNE EARL POND, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
CATHY JO POND, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable John R. Perry, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Golden, Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] This appeal arises out of the divorce of Cathy Jo Pond (Wife) from Dwayne Earl Pond (Husband). Husband appeals the property settlement portion of the decree of divorce. We affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Husband brings the following issue for our review:

Did the Trial Court abuse its discretion in making an equitable division of the assets and debts of the parties, when the Trial Court provided the marital estate should be equalized but then failed to consider the debts each party would take, when the Trial Court ordered Appellant to pay Appellee $58,959.11?

FACTS

[¶3] Husband and Wife were married in 1990. Shortly after the marriage, Wife received settlement money in the amount of $74,000 for injuries sustained in a premarital accident. The money was for future medical care and surgeries. During the course of the marriage, the parties purchased nine lots in a subdivision of Gillette called Oriva Hills. The marital home is built on two of the lots. The other seven lots remain undeveloped except for fencing and some water improvements.

[¶4] The marriage had problems. From the beginning of the marriage, Husband was controlling and dictated such things as Wife's style of dress, her associations, and her schedule. Husband on one occasion committed spousal rape. Wife ultimately engaged in improper relations with other men. In October 2006, Husband told Wife to get out of the marital residence. Wife began looking for a place to stay and moved out of the marital residence in January 2007. Wife left with little. Almost immediately after Wife moved out, Husband began renting a portion of the marital residence to strangers and eventually moved in his extended family, including his parents, sister and nephew, all to the exclusion of Wife.

[¶5] The divorce case went to trial. Because of the hostilities between the parties, the district court determined "[t]he best possible resolution for both parties is to divide them and their property as quickly as possible and minimize their necessary future dealings with each other as to property and debts." The district court began by excluding from the marital estate $45,000, determining it solely belonged to Wife as part of a personal injury settlement she received for a premarital accident. It also excluded an annuity valued at $7,744.20 purchased by Wife with her settlement proceeds.

[¶6] The district court awarded Husband the marital residence and the two lots upon which it was situated. It awarded Wife the seven other unimproved lots. Other marital assets were distributed. Husband was assigned $114,106 in debt, consisting primarily of the mortgage on the marital residence. Wife was assigned $12,917 in debt. The district court ordered Husband to pay $58,959.11 to Wife to "equalize the marital estate."

DISCUSSION

[¶7] The issue presented by this appeal involves the manner in which the district court divided the marital estate. The disposition of marital property is committed to the sound discretion of the district court. We will not disturb the result absent a manifest abuse of that discretion. Odegard v. Odegard, 2003 WY 67, ¶ 10, 69 P.3d 917, 920-21 (Wyo. 2003); Mann v. Mann, 979 P.2d 497, 500 (Wyo. 1999); France v. France, 902 P.2d 701, 703 (Wyo. 1995); Neuman v. Neuman, 842 P.2d 575, 578 (Wyo. 1992). Judicial discretion is made up of many things, including conclusions reached from objective criteria, as well as exercising sound judgment with regard to what is right under the circumstances and without doing so arbitrarily or capriciously. We are required to ask ourselves whether the trial court could reasonably conclude as it did and whether or not any facet of its ruling was arbitrary or capricious. Holland v. Holland, 2001 WY 113, ¶ 8, 35 P.3d 409, 412 (Wyo. 2001). We will find an abuse of discretion only when the disposition shocks the conscience of the Court and appears so unfair and inequitable that reasonable persons could not abide it. France, 902 P.2d at 703.

[ΒΆ8] Dividing a marital estate is not necessarily a mechanical process but rather is guided by considering the factors in Wyo. Stat. ...


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