Hight v. Hight, 314 S.W.3d 874 (Mo. App. S.D., July 13, 2010)

August 8th, 2011

A judgment of dissolution awarded Wife 93 percent of the marital assets and 27 percent of the marital debt. Husband received approximately seven percent of the marital assets and 73 percent of the marital debt. Husband appealed, alleging that the division of marital property and debt is so one-sided as to constitute an abuse of discre­tion by the trial court. The Court of Appeals held that there was not enough substantial evidence that Husband’s misconduct supported the trial court’s award of the marital property and debt and reversed and remanded the case. On appeal, the court looked to the factors set forth in § 452.330 and determined that the fourth factor (conduct of the parties during the marriage) was the most relevant. There was evidence of Husband’s abuse and threats towards Wife during the marriage. However, marital conduct is only “a factor in property division when the offending conduct places an extra burden on the other spouse.” Mc­Nair v. McNair, 987 S.W.2d, 4, 6 (Mo. App.W.D. 1998). The court must look for evidence that “in disproportionately dividing the marital property, based in whole or in part on marital misconduct, is not ‘punishing the offending spouse, but is compensating the aggrieved spouse for the extra burden placed on the spouse in the marriage by the offending spouse’s misconduct.’” Nelson, 25 S.W.3d at 519. The only evidence of added bur­dens to Wife was that Husband’s abuse compelled Wife to separate and cause the marriage to fail, which the Court of Appeals held was not enough substantial evidence to support the trial court’s division granting Wife 93 percent of the marital assets and 27 percent of the marital debt.