OWENS v. OWENS (Appellate Division, Third Department)

The Supreme Court adjudged that the NYC rental property and marital residence to be separate property of the husband and awarded him a 30% share of the wife’s enhanced earnings as a nurse. The wife appeals such decision contending that, amongst other things, that the equitable distribution was inadequate.

The NYC rental property in question was purchased in 1978, seven years prior to the marriage (in 1985) for $130,000 and sold for $6 million in September 2007 ultimately receiving $4.6 million from the sale. The husband used an absentee management system and wife never had any involvement in managing the property. The rental income was treated as marital income, but proceeds from the sale were wired into a bank account in the husband’s name only. The Appellate Court supports Supreme Court’s conclusion that this property constituted separate property.

Additionally, the Supreme Court also properly concluded the marital residence was husband’s separate property but that the wife was entitled to a share of the appreciation in value of the residence.

After the birth of the parties’ first son in 1987, husband gave up his photography business and parties lived off income from the NYC rental property. In 1998, the wife earned a Bachelors degree in nursing and became licensed as a registered nurse. During the marriage, aside from brief employment periods, wife was not employed as a nurse or otherwise. The Appellate Court declines to modify the Supreme Court’s award to the husband of 30% of enhanced earnings attributable to the wife’s nursing degree as he was the primary caregiver for the children while she pursued her degree full time.