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Kruse v. Kruse

November 9, 2010

JAN KRUSE, N/K/A JAN TWYFORD, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
JAMES KRUSE, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Niobrara County The Honorable Keith G. Kautz, Judge.

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

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

[¶1] This is an appeal from the district court's distribution in a divorce decree of two specific assets. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] 1. Whether property separately reserved to a spouse by prenuptial agreement can be disregarded in considering where the parties will be left by a divorce?

2. Where a prenuptial agreement states that pre-marriage property will be the separate property of each spouse, can the district court disregard the exclusivity of that provision by also treating the pre-marriage portion of marital property as separate property?

FACTS

[¶3] After entering into a prenuptial agreement, the parties married on August 16, 2000. The appellant (Husband) filed for divorce on October 3, 2008. The appellee (Wife) answered and counterclaimed a few weeks later. The district court tried the case on August 17, 2009, issued a decision letter on September 4, 2009, and entered a divorce decree on March 2, 2010.

[¶4] The prenuptial agreement is not in the record, and there is no trial transcript, but the parties do not dispute the district court's recitation of the agreement provision that underlies this dispute:

The parties signed an antenuptial agreement which the Court finds to be unambiguous. That agreement specified that each would keep any property owned separately before the marriage free from any claim by the other "in the same manner as if the proposed marriage had never been celebrated." (Section One 1.) The agreement further specified that certain assets may be purchased and acquired by the parties as "marital property" (i.e. property specifically intended to be held by the parties jointly, regardless of contribution). Such property shall be considered as held by the parties jointly, and shall be subject to distribution as such in a dissolution of marriage or death of one of the parties. (Section Four 2.)

[¶5] Wife did not in the district court contest the prenuptial agreement or the distribution of assets each party owned before the marriage, nor does she do so now. She contests only the district court's distribution of two particular assets: (1) a brokerage account established after the marriage by Husband in both their names; and (2) a house owned by Husband before the marriage, but deeded to both parties after the marriage. The district court distributed the brokerage account to Husband in its entirety because it had been established with funds inherited by him. The district court divided the value of the house between the parties in a manner that will be discussed more fully below.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[ΒΆ6] We recently re-stated the standard we apply in reviewing a district court's division of the ...


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