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Hofstad v. Christie

October 7, 2010

JERALD KORWIN HOFSTAD, APPELLANT (RESPONDENT),
v.
CATHRYN ANNE CHRISTIE, APPELLEE (PETITIONER).



Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, The Honorable W. Thomas Sullins, Judge.

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

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT*fn1, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] Appellant Jerald Korwin Hofstad challenges the district court‟s judgment equally partitioning a home owned by him and Appellee Cathryn Anne Christie as tenants in common. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Mr. Hofstad lists four issues:

1. Did the district court below commit reversible error when it applied Alaska and Montana law and treated an unmarried couple as family members for purposes of dividing real property owned jointly as tenants in common?

2. Did the district court below commit reversible error when it found unequal contributions toward the purchase price of the property, there was no specific evidence of a gift, and yet the district court presumed that a gift of the excess contribution was intended?

3. Did the district court below improperly assign the burden of proof to the donor to prove the negative -- that no gift was made?

4. Where there was no family relationship, and no specific evidence of any intended gift, should the property be divided according to the proven unequal contributions of the parties?

FACTS

[¶3] From February of 1996 to July of 2007, Mr. Hofstad and Ms. Christie were involved in a relationship and lived together for extended periods of time, but never married. However, their relationship produced twin boys born in 1996. The couple and their children, including five children from Mr. Hofstad‟s prior relationship, lived together in Casper from 1998 to 2005. Their home, located on Monument Road, was owned alone by Mr. Hofstad.

[¶4] In 2005, Hofstad decided to purchase a new home in Casper located at 1120 Donegal Street. At the time he entered into the contract on the Donegal home, he and Ms. Christie were separated. However, in April of 2005, the parties reconciled, and the warranty deed of the Donegal home conveyed the property to "Jerald K. Hofstad and Cathryn Anne Christie, grantee(s)." Mr. Hofstad paid the down payment, the closing costs, and entered into the loan obligation for the Donegal home. He used $124,053.15 from the sale of the Monument Road home, which was sold in May of 2005, to pay down the mortgage on the Donegal home.

[¶5] From May of 2005 until July of 2007, the parties and their children lived in the Donegal home. Mr. Hofstad paid all mortgage payments and utilities. Christie contributed to various improvements and was the homemaker of the home. In July of 2007, Christie moved out of the Donegal home.

[ΒΆ6] In December of 2007, Christie filed suit seeking partition of the Donegal home. After a bench trial, the court ruled that the home should be partitioned equally. The court reasoned that although Mr. Hofstad and Christie contributed unequal monetary amounts to the Donegal home, with Mr. Hofstad contributing substantially more money than Ms. Christie, Mr. Hofstad nevertheless failed to prove that there was not a family relationship or donative ...


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