LAUZONIS v. LAUZONIS (Appellate Division, Fourth Department)

The Appellate Court determined that the Supreme Court erred in the distribution of the marital assets, namely the investment account, a 403-b deferred compensation account, the husband’s pre-retirement death benefits, and the husband’s enhanced earnings from his masters degree.

With respect to the investment account, there was no question that those funds constitute marital property, both parties had testified that the source was from refinancing of the marital home prior to the commencement of action and that the proceeds from refinance were invested in the market. The Appellate Court felt that the husband did not overcome the presumption that the jointly titled property should be divided equally.

The husband made contributions from his wages to a 403-b account during the course of the marriage and therefore should be equitably distributed to both parties. Additionally, the death benefit through the teacher retirement system accrued during the marriage and therefore should be equally distributed to both as well.

Of further contention are the enhanced earnings of the husband from his master’s degree. The record demonstrated that the parties married shortly after the wife’s college graduation and that the husband was teaching high school and had five years in which to obtain a master’s. The wife’s claim was that she put her own master’s on hold while the husband pursued the degree and the Appellate Court determined that she indeed did made a modest contribution toward the husband’s attainment of the degree and was entitled to the enhanced earnings.