Wife P and husband D were married for 6 years. She was employed as a stewardess while he went to school for a BS in physics and an MBA.
Wife contributed 70% of the financial support, used for expenses and husband's education.
Wife wanted equitable distribution of the education she helped provide, including future earning potential.
Trial court held education is marital property.
COA CO reversed, held education is not marital property.
CO Supreme Court affirmed.
Does a degree/education qualify as marital property subject to equal distribution?
A degree/education does not qualify as marital property subject to equal distribution.
There are necessary limits upon what may be considered property; one definition is "everything that has an exchangeable value or which goes to make up wealth or estate."
In deciding whether something falls in this category, can look to whether it can be assigned, sold, transferred, conveyed, or pledged, or whether it terminated on death of the owner.
Here, the degrees/education satisfy none of the requirements of property.
Other jurisdictions agree with us.
It has even been held that a person's earning capacity, even where enhanced by a law degree financed by the other spouse, should not be recognized as a separate, particular item of property.
A spouse who provides financial support while the other spouse acquires an education is not without a remedy; when there is marital property to be divided, such contribution to the education may be taken into account by the court.
Here, no marital property had been accumulated.
The most valuable asset acquired by either party during this six year marriage was the husband's increased earning capacity, which resulted from wife's income. She invested in his education.
Equity demands that courts seek extraordinary remedies to prevent extraordinary injustice.
If they had remained married longer and accumulated marital property, there would be no problem. It doesn't make sense that she gets stiffed here.
It is not the degree itself which constitutes the asset in question, it is the increase in the husband's earning power concomitant to that degree.
This ruling is unfair; maybe the wife could try an unjust enrichment, quasi-contract, or implied debt claim since there is no remedy for her here.