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A reading of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-114 (LexisNexis 2001) indicates that the party through whom the property was acquired is one of the multiple factors the trial court considers in determining the appropriate division of property. Property inherited by one party can be awarded to the party by whom it was inherited or given. But the Wyoming Supreme Court has never held that property inherited by one spouse must always be awarded to the spouse that received it. It has said that no hard and fast rules govern property divisions. It continues to adhere to that principle. The supreme court has never established bright line rules for the disposition of a gift or inheritance, and it does not do so now. Instead, it reviews whether the trial court considered the appropriate factors in making the disposition. The particular circumstances of the case dictate the property distribution.
Husband and Wife married on June 30, 1979, in Canton, Ohio. During the course of their marriage the couple had two children. Husband worked intermittently at a landfill operated by Breitenstine Landfill, Inc. Husband received shares of stock in the early part of the marriage; this stock represented twenty-one percent of the outstanding stock. Husband also received gifts from his parents, which he placed in his joint account with his wife. Both parties had access to the joint account and used the funds in the account of their own free will. The money was co-mingled with other marital property, and thereafter the couple lived off these funds or the income from investments purchased with these funds. The parties also purchased a Wyoming home, which was paid for using the joint account. In April 1995, the husband received his inheritance from his father. He subsequently created the Breitenstine Family Trust (family trust) and transferred a substantial portion of the marital assets to the trust. In April 1997, the couple separated for the final time, and the wife filed for divorce, which was granted on February 16, 1999. Yet, the property division matters were not heard until January 29, 2001. During the time between the creation of the family trust and the hearing for division of marital property, Husband continued to make transfers of property to the family trust. The district court found that the total marital estate was at least $ 8,764,673, made up almost entirely of the gifts from Husband's parents. The judgment awarded Wife $ 2,000 per month in alimony and one-half of the marital estate. Husband appealed.
Did the district court err in dividing the marital property?
The appellate court held that the trial court had not been obliged to award the inherited property to the husband; the property's inherited nature was only one factor to consider under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-114 (LexisNexis 2001). The marital estate consisted mostly of the gifts and inheritance, which the parties had treated as marital property. The husband could not account for $ 6 million of this money, had secreted assets in trusts and corporations, and had converted money from his children's trusts. The trial court reasonably concluded that appellee wife should not be left without any property. As multiple "badges of fraud" accompanied the husband's transfers of assets to a family trust in the Bahamas, the trial court's finding that his intent in so doing was to hinder, delay, or defraud his creditors, including his wife, was not clearly erroneous. However, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to direct judgment on out-of-state property, though it had the authority to order the husband to transfer such property.