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Evans v. Evans - 1997 S.D. 16, 559 N.W.2d 240

Rule:

A trial court is not required to accept either party's claimed expenses. To do so would remove the trial court's discretion in setting child support obligations where the parties' income exceeds the guidelines set forth in S.D. Codified Laws § 25-7-6.2. A custodial parent has the burden of proving her claimed expenses reflect the children's needs and standard of living.

Facts:

After failed attempts to reconcile the marriage, the husband filed for a divorce on grounds of adultery. The trial court awarded the husband a divorce, divided the marital property, awarded child support, alimony and attorney's fees. The trial court also transferred ownership of the couple's insurance policies excluding the property from the marital assets. The wife appealed the decision, asserting, among others, that the trial court erred by transferring ownership of insurance policies to the children and excluding the property from the marital assets.

Issue:

Did the trial court erred by transferring ownership of insurance policies to the children and excluding the property from the marital assets?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the grant of divorce to the husband and the awards of alimony, child support, and attorney fees; however, except the appellate court reversed the distribution of insurance policies held by the husband and remanded for an appropriate discounting of the valuation of the policies together with a corresponding equitable property adjustment to the wife. It held that the trial court properly took into account the actual needs and standard of living of the children when it awarded child support. Monthly tennis expenses that were not proven reflective of one of the children's standard of living were property denied by the trial court. The husband was required to name the children as beneficiaries of certain insurance policies that he owned as security for his payment of child support. However, the court noted that ownership of the policies was not transferred from the marital estate to the children. Ownership of the policies remained with the husband and was a property distribution to the husband for the children's benefit. As a result, the value to the husband should have been discounted, and the wife should have been awarded an adjustment to offset that value. The awards of attorney fees and alimony were proper given the disparity in the parties' earning power and the wife's fault in the dissolution of the marriage.

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