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O'Brien v. O'Brien

Court of Appeals of North Carolina
508 S.E.2d 300 (N.C. App. 1998)


Richard O’Brien (plaintiff) separated from Mabel O’Brien (defendant) after 20 years of marriage. During the separation, Richard filed an equitable-distribution action, seeking more than an equal share of the marital property. Mabel answered Richard’s petition and filed a counterclaim. During a bench trial, the evidence showed that 11 years into the marriage, Mabel had received an inheritance from her father in the amount of $163,000. Mabel opened an investment account with Wheat First Securities, depositing approximately $158,000 of the inheritance, along with a $10,000 gift from her aunt, into the account. The investment account was listed in the joint names of Richard and Mabel, with rights of survivorship. Several years later, Richard and Mabel deposited $4,550 of marital funds into the investment account and withdrew approximately $39,000 for marital purposes. The investment account was subsequently transferred to a number of different brokerage firms. During this period, Mabel’s aunt made gifts to Richard and Mabel of $20,000 each. However, Mabel’s aunt noted that these amounts were intended as a gift only to Mabel. The trial court found that the investment account was Mabel’s separate property and not subject to equitable distribution. Additionally, the court held that the $20,000 gift from Mabel’s aunt to Richard was not intended to be a gift to Richard. After excluding the investment-account proceeds from distribution, the trial court divided the marital property accordingly. Richard appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Horton, J.)

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