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Arneault v. Arneault - 219 W. Va. 628, 639 S.E.2d 720 (2006)

Rule:

Under equitable distribution, the contributions of time and effort to the married life of the couple-at home and in the workplace-are valued equally regardless of whether the parties' respective earnings have been equal. Equitable distribution contemplates that parties make their respective contributions to the married life of the parties in that expectation.

Facts:

Appellant wife appealed from an order of the circuit court affirming the family court's rulings, which divided the parties' martial estate 35/65 in favor of appellee husband, provided that certain stock should be valued at a discount and the wife paid that value over a 10-year period, and valued the oil and gas entities owned by the husband. The wife argued that the split should be 50/50 since the husband has not overcome the presumption of an equal division of the marital property.

Issue:

Is the wife entitled to a 50/50 split of the marital estate considering that her efforts consisted of keeping the household and taking care of the children?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The supreme court of appeals found error in that ruling, concluding that the contributions of the wife, who abandoned her career to stay home with the parties' children, were precisely the reason that the husband was able to succeed at work. Thus, the marital estate should have been divided equally. The wife also challenged the family court's order regarding the husband's gaming stock. The supreme court of appeals concluded that, under W. Va. Code § 48-7-105 (2004), the family court erred in failing to order the stock be distributed in kind because retention of each party of their one-half portions was the preferred equitable distribution, the wife could possess the subject stock, provided she obtained the necessary license under W. Va. Code § 29-22a-7 (2004), and there was no other property or money of equivalent value that could be awarded to the wife in lieu of the 50 % of the stock to which she was entitled. The fact that the husband, who worked for the company, had greater affiliations with the company did not entitle him to retention of the stock.

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