CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS MARCH 19, 2018
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FOURTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
LAWRENCE COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE MICHELLE K. COMER
TIMOTHY R. JOHNS of Johns & Kosel, Prof. LLC Lead, South
Dakota Attorneys for appellant.
A. WILDE Spearfish, South Dakota Attorney for appellee.
Husband and wife held most of their assets separately
throughout an eighteen-year marriage. In granting the parties
a divorce, the circuit court classified most of their assets
as marital property and divided them equally. Wife appeals.
We affirm on all but one clerical issue, which we remand for
and Procedural History
Percy Ahrendt and Diane Chamberlain were married in 1999.
Diane and her son from a prior marriage moved into
Percy's residence. During their first eight years, Diane
worked various part-time jobs and made about $7, 885 a year
in reported income. At that time, she was studying to obtain
her securities licenses, and she paid approximately $250-$350
of the monthly marital expenses. Percy made about $37, 900
per year. He paid the remaining marital expenses, including
the mortgage on the home and health insurance for Diane and
her son. He also paid child and medical support for his two
children from a prior marriage. The couple decided early on
that they would maintain separate financial accounts and
individually manage their money and assets.
Diane eventually obtained her securities licenses, and in
2007, she founded a financial consulting business that
allowed her to begin making significant monetary
contributions to the marriage. Percy also obtained new
employment at Peabody Energy Group, earning a good income. As
a result of their respective employments, they began
accumulating significant assets, consisting primarily of real
estate, business interests, and retirement accounts.
Although Diane and Percy were earning similar incomes, Percy
continued to pay the entire mortgage on the home, and he
continued to provide health insurance for Diane and her son.
Diane paid other marital expenses. In 2012, the couple sold
Percy's house and jointly purchased a new home. Of the
$93, 644.18 in net proceeds, $81, 431.85 was used as a down
payment on the new, jointly owned home. Thereafter, Percy
paid approximately 70% of the new $2, 584.99 mortgage
payment, and Diane paid approximately 30%.
Percy and Diane separated in September 2014. Diane remained
in the marital home and began paying the entire monthly
mortgage payment. Percy paid his own expenses associated with
his new apartment. Percy also continued to provide health
insurance for Diane and her son (until he turned twenty-six
in early 2016).
Percy commenced this divorce action in June 2015. A two-day
trial was held in June 2017 to divide property and
debts. The circuit court found that both parties
made significant contributions to the acquisition of
property, and the court classified most of their separately
held assets as marital property. The court awarded Diane the
marital home, her business, her five vehicles, her retirement
account, and her financial accounts. Percy was awarded his
new pickup, his large collection of sports cards and
memorabilia, various pieces of personal property, his
retirement accounts, and his financial accounts. The court
required each party to be solely responsible for the debts
associated with the respective assets awarded to them. Percy
received net assets valued at $285, 804 ($332, 624 in assets
less $46, 820 in liabilities). Diane received net assets
valued at $719, 982.40 ($1, 020, 578.40 in assets less $300,
596 in liabilities). The court ruled that the $434, 178.40
difference in net assets was not equitable, and it ordered
Diane to make a $217, 089.20 equalization payment.
Diane appeals, raising the following issues:
1. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion in
classifying separately held assets ...