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Property purchased after religious wedding ceremony, but before civil ceremony is not part of marital estate

The trial court properly found that the parties equally contributed to the breakdown in the marital relationship and that property in Jordan was the defendant-ex-husband's premarital property. Also, it did not abuse its equitable discretion in awarding the plaintiff-ex-wife all items in her personal possession and a 50% share of defendant's retirement benefits earned during the marriage. It did not abuse its equitable discretion in awarding plaintiff $1,967 in spousal support for 15 months following the divorce, or in awarding her $5,000 in attorney fees and $1,000 in costs. The parties had a religious and a civil wedding in Jordan in 2011. Plaintiff argued that the trial court clearly erred in finding that the parties equally contributed to the breakdown in the marital relationship. At trial, she presented evidence that defendant engaged in extramarital relationships with other women. He testified that plaintiff refused to have sexual relations with him. On appeal, she argued that "defendant's testimony was not credible because he required her to use birth control to prevent pregnancy, and because she testified that the parties engaged in sexual relations during their marriage." He testified at trial that plaintiff "used birth control to address her medical and hormonal problems and not for birth control purposes." The court "gives special deference to a trial court's findings when they are based on the credibility of the witnesses." Because the trial court's "assessment of credibility was integral to its finding that the parties equally contributed to the breakdown of the marital relationship," plaintiff did not show that it clearly erred in finding they were equally at fault. Plaintiff also argued that the trial court erred in finding that a parcel of property in Jordan owned by defendant was not marital property because he allegedly purchased it after the parties completed their religious wedding ceremony. At trial, she produced a document that she claimed indicated defendant purchased the Jordan property on 7/12/11. Defendant testified that he purchased the land in 2006 and merely registered it and updated the taxes on 7/12/11. Where there is conflicting testimony, the court generally defers to a trial court's ability to assess the witnesses' credibility. Further, even if defendant purchased the land on 7/12/11, "the parties testified that they were not civilly married under Jordanian law" until 7/14/11. The trial court did not clearly err in finding the Jordan property was defendant's premarital property. Affirmed.


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