Flower v. Flower (2010)

In Flower v. Flower, 1 CA-CV 08-0234, 223 Ariz. 531, 225 P.3d 588, (2010), the parties were married for just over one year. Shortly after their wedding, the husband transferred title of his sole and separate property to both parties as community property with rights of survivorship. A home equity loan was then taken against this property and the proceeds were used to improve a house that the wife held as her sole and separate property at all times. Other debts were also incurred by the community to improve her separate property. Id. The family court in Flower found that converting the husband's house to jointly-titled property after marriage constituted a gift to the community. Therefore, the house was subject to equitable division under A.R.S. 25-318. In applying Toth, the family court concluded that an equitable division under the circumstances required divesting the wife of all interest in the jointly titled house. The court also rejected the husband's request for an equitable lien on the wife's separate property and held the husband responsible for a significant portion of the debts the community incurred to improve wife's separate residence. In supporting this result, the family court recognized that "to the extent Wife can assert she was due any greater sums for her share of the property pursuant to A.R.S. 25-318(A), such equitable claims are more than compensated by the improvements made to her sole and separate property, the denial of any equitable lien thereon, and the assignment of debt . . . to Husband." On appeal, the Court affirmed the family court's findings and noted that the wife made no "contributions to the purchase or improvement of the property nor did she allege she made pecuniary contributions to the community in other areas or that any effort, toil, or contributions from the community were comingled with the property to increase its value. To the contrary, the value of the property was reduced by the home equity loan used to improve the wife's separate property. These facts weighed against making a substantially equal division of the property.