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Knoxville Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Divorce > Ogle v. Duff: A Dispute Over the Meaning of Marital Property

Ogle v. Duff: A Dispute Over the Meaning of Marital Property


According to Tennessee law, almost any income a married person earns during the marriage becomes marital property.  Therefore, the court has the right to divide the income if the couple divorces.  In general things that you owned on your wedding day count as separate property.  The court does not divide these on the grounds that they are marital property, but it might still order you to pay spousal support if you were married for a long time and your net worth is much greater than your spouse’s at the time of the divorce.  The best way to protect certain assets of yours from being divided in a divorce or paid out in alimony is to sign a prenuptial agreement.  If you are already married, it is also possible to formalize decisions about keeping property separate by signing a postnuptial agreement.  If you have questions about division of property, whether you are planning to get divorced or are already divorced, contact a Tennessee divorce lawyer.

Details of the Ogle Case

Jimmy Ogle and Julie Duff married in 2006, when he was 58 years old and she was 45.  Julie had two minor children from her first marriage.  Both spouses worked throughout the marriage, Julie as a teacher and Jimmy as the owner of a land surveying business.  Early in their marriage Jimmy transferred most of his assets, including several real estate properties and several retirement accounts in a revocable trust.  He named himself as a trustee, with Julie to become the trustee on his death.  He named Julie and her children as beneficiaries.  Jimmy and Julie never owned a joint bank account.

When the couple divorced in 2011, the court dissolved the trust and divided the assets, including Jimmy’s retirement accounts, equally among the two parties.  The court determined that a postnuptial agreement they had signed, in which Julie agreed to forfeit her interest in the assets in the event of a divorce, was not valid.  Jimmy appealed the decision, arguing that it was not appropriate to count the retirement accounts and real estate properties he had owned before the marriage, or any increase in their value that had occurred during the marriage, as marital property.  He pointed out that he and Julie had been married less than six years and argued that it only makes sense to divide a couple’s property in half if they had been married 17 years or more.  The appeals court sided with Jimmy and did not make him pay half the value of his retirement accounts and real estate properties to Julie.

Contact Patrick L. Looper About Divorce Cases

Equitable distribution, where each spouse gets their fair share of the property, is not a strict mathematical formula.  If you think the trial court’s decision about division of property in your divorce was unfair, a family law attorney can help you get the decision modified.  Contact Knoxville divorce attorney Patrick L. Looper for a consultation.


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