BURKHALTER LAW PLLC
MEDIATION, ARBITRATION, DISPUTE RESOLUTION
DIVORCE, CHILD CUSTODY, FAMILY LAW
S. Scott Burkhalter, Lawyer
The case: In re the Marriage of Larson & Calhoun. King County Superior Court. Appealed to Washington Court of Appeals.
The stage: The parties were in a long term marriage (i.e., more than 25 years). Prior to the marriage Mr. Larson had accumulated more than $350 million in separate property. During the marriage, the marital community accumulated almost $140 million in community assets (most of which was attributed to the exercise of stock Mr. Larson had prior to the marriage) with debt approaching $30 million. Mr. Larson did not challenge the character (i.e., community or separate property) of the community property before the Court.
The trial verdict: The Court awarded all of the community property to Ms. Calhoun, all of the debt to Mr. Larson, and $40 million of Mr. Larson's separate property to Ms. Calhoun (remember, he did not challenge the exercise of his separate property stock acquired before marriage as being separate property so arguably Ms. Calhoun received even more of Mr. Larson's "separate property").
The challenge: On appeal, Mr. Larson did not challenge the award to Ms. Calhoun of 100% of the community property, nor did he challenge the "award" to him of the community debt. He did, however, challenge the award to Ms. Calhoun $40 million of his separate property by in, essence arguing, Ms. Calhoun already has ample funds to provide for herself.
The result: The Appellate Court upheld the trial Court's decision.
The "takeaway": The Court has broad discretion to make decisions in family law matters.
The law: RCW 26.09.080 (emphasis added)
Disposition of property and liabilities—Factors.In a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage or domestic partnership, legal separation, declaration of invalidity, or in a proceeding for disposition of property following dissolution of the marriage or the domestic partnership by a court which lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse or absent domestic partner or lacked jurisdiction to dispose of the property, the court shall, without regard to misconduct, make such disposition of the property and the liabilities of the parties, either community or separate, as shall appear just and equitable after considering all relevant factors including, but not limited to:
(1) The nature and extent of the community property;
(2) The nature and extent of the separate property;
(3) The duration of the marriage or domestic partnership; and
(4) The economic circumstances of each spouse or domestic partner at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to a spouse or domestic partner with whom the children reside the majority of the time.
By the numbers: Mr. Larson walked away with roughly $350 million and Ms. Larson walked away with roughly $180 million, give or take a million here or there.
PROPERTY DIVISION IN A WASHINGTON DIVORCE AND THE COURT'S BROAD DISCRETION