Neuhs is an unreported Virginia appellate opinion on the identification of separate and marital property in equitable distribution. 

            There is nothing particularly “new” about the outcome of this proceeding.  It may be interpreted as a warning to parties entering a marriage with substantial assets:  Either sign a pre-marital agreement or obtain legal advice about preventing assets from becoming marital property, if you hope to avoid the fate of the husband in this action.

            Husband’s[1] missteps may have deprived him of tens of thousands of dollars in assets that he might otherwise have been awarded: 

                        A.            Husband’s eight (8) pre-marital real properties were deemed transmuted into marital property as a result of (1) the trial judge crediting wife’s testimony that the real estate holding company (“DJN”) established for those properties post-marriage was intended to provide for their retirement, and discrediting husband’s testimony; (2) both parties dealing with DJN operations; (3) both having signature authority on DJN checks; and (4) both commingling DJN funds with their personal accounts. And,

                        B.            Husband lost his claim that the trial court forgot to account for wife’s marital waste totaling nearly $40,000.00 in airline tickets, unnecessary purchases and expenditures, and withdrawals from his separate business.  Husband lost that claim because he neglected to mention it in his written objection to the final decree.  This is a major cause for appeals being denied; if you do not provide the trial court a chance to fix their error, the higher court will not help you.

            Whenever the judge ruled on property, the judge was sustained.  This applies the basic principle that factual determinations (assessments of credibility) are up to the trial court and will not be reviewed on appeal unless there is no evidence to support them. 

            On some matters, however, the judge failed to classify, value and appropriate assets even though the litigants introduced evidence about them at trial.  The judge lost no money as a result of failing to identify and distribute all  the property.  He simply received a directive to supplement his ruling.  The parties, on the other hand, must each pay their attorney fees and costs for the appeal.



[1]  Both parties were married three times before.  Wife married husband 48 hours after dissolution of his third marriage, and ended this (fourth) marriage by proving adultery.