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Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Family Court’s Property Division

In Casavant v. Allen, 2016 VT 89 (August 26, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the family court’s division of marital assets and debts in a final divorce order.

Issue: Husband appealed a final divorce order, in which he was awarded 27% of the marital assets (if a pending lawsuit proceeds were included) and more debts than assets. He argued that the property award was inequitable, that the family court relied on inaccurate facts, and that the property division was based on an impermissible judicial bias against him.

Holding: The Court noted that a disparate property division is not facially inequitable and that the family court can assign all of the debt to one party if that party is primarily responsible for the debt. The Court concluded that the family court acted within its discretion to assign more weight to certain statutory factors and conclude that the wife was entitled to more property than husband. It also held that, even if the family court was to consider the financial condition that the parties would be left in by the property division, it would not necessitate a different property division in this case. It held that there was evidence to support the family court’s conclusions that husband had dissipated marital assets and was primarily responsible for the lack of funds to cover the debt and the failure of the marriage. The Court did not address the issue of judicial bias, as it was based on facts and statements not in the record and husband failed to object on the record to preserve the issue for appeal.

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