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Marriage of DewBerry

62 P.3d 525 (2003)

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Marriage of DewBerry

Washington Court of Appeals

62 P.3d 525 (2003)

Facts

Emanuel George, Jr. (defendant) and Carla DewBerry (plaintiff) began dating in 1981. George was a music-industry executive, and Carla had graduated from law school and was working toward becoming a CPA. In 1981, George and DewBerry were discussing marriage and George had told DewBerry that a friend of his had been wronged in a divorce settlement and lost his house, so George wanted to avoid the same fate. George proposed the following conditions of marriage: (1) DewBerry would always be fully employed; (2) each party’s income and property would be treated as separate property; (3) each party would own a home to return to if the marriage failed; and (4) DewBerry would not get fat. DewBerry agreed to the conditions, and DewBerry and George married in 1986. Between 1981 and 2000, DewBerry and George took meticulous efforts to maintain separate finances and property. The couple deposited their incomes in separate accounts, held separate investments, and had separate retirement accounts. The beneficiaries of the couples’ individual accounts were the couple’s children or the estate of the spouse whose account it was under. DewBerry purchased three houses during the relationship and treated them as separate property by paying for maintenance, improvements, and mortgages on her own. One of the homes DewBerry purchased was to fulfill the condition of the prenuptial agreement that she own a home to return to if the marriage failed. The family lived in another one of the homes owned by DewBerry, and George paid DewBerry a set amount each month toward living expenses. DewBerry and George initially both earned approximately $40,000 to $50,000 annually. By the 1990s, DewBerry had become a partner at her law firm and began making over $1 million in 2000. In 2000, DewBerry and George separated. The trial court addressed DewBerry and George’s property and oral prenuptial agreement. The trial court found that DewBerry and George had entered into an oral prenuptial agreement, despite George denying it existed. The trial court also found that there had been complete performance of the agreement and thus the couple’s property consisted primarily of separate property. George appealed to the trial court’s property division and argued the agreement was void under the statute of frauds.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Coleman, J.)

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