Family Law Case Review: Edwards v. E. Bonilla-Vega

Case: Paul D. Edwards v. Zobeida E. Bonilla-Vega
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

The proceeds of Husband’s lawsuit against his former employer, which lawsuit was filed prior to the marriage dissolution being filed but which was settled prior to the final hearing, was properly includable in the marital estate.

Husband and Wife married in 1999. In 2006, while still married, Husband sued a former employer, alleging career damages from the non-renewal of his contract. In July 2010, while Husband’s lawsuit remained pending, Wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage.

Three months later, and before the divorce was final, Husband settled his lawsuit against his former employer. In November 2011, the Court entered its Decree, which included in the marital pot Husband’s settlement proceeds. Husband appealed.

The Court of Appeals analyzed that Husband’s action against his former employer was a “chose in action” property interest. In reviewing the applicable case law, a chose in action is not marital property where no lawsuit has been filed at the time of separation, or when its recovery and value is so contingent and speculative at the time of divorce that it’s incapable of division.

Here, however, by the time the Decree was issued, the contingent and speculative nature of Husband’s chose in action had been resolved by virtue of the case’s settlement. The Court of Appeals likened this issue with the one presented in the Adams case, where it was held that a speculative and contingent pension interest, which then vests while a divorce is pending, is properly includable in the marital estate.

The trial court’s Decree was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Paul D. Edwards v. Zobeida E. Bonilla-Vega

The Indiana Family Law Update is a free service provided by Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP. While significant efforts are made to ensure an accurate summary and reproduction of each opinion, readers are advised to verify all content and analysis with a traditional case law reporter before relying on the content and analysis offered here.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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